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SPAIN: Franco and the US

Despised by most Europeans, Franco would have fallen from power but for the support of the US, which viewed Spain as a strategic asset.

Alberto Guteirrez recalls those days in Madrid: "One summer day long ago, while I enjoyed a cortado in a cafeteria at La Plaza de Oriente ,in Madrid, I noticed some policemen and a large number of Civil Guards all over the area. Soon the presence of La Benemerita (the Civil Guards) was overwhelming, and finally somebody told me "Franco is coming!" I got up from my chair and walked a few steps, just in time to see a classic Mercedes going toward the entrance of the Royal Palace, heavily surrounded by a mounted escort.

Minutes later a gilded carriage, also with a mounted escort, followed the same path toward the Palace. I was able to identify the man inside the carriage. It was none other than Richard Wagner, a former New York mayor, whose face I remembered fairly well. He, was on his way to present his credentials as US Ambassador to Spain.

For several years I had read about the Eisenhower visit to Spain, the US military presence in Torrejon, Rota, etc. but not until then did I fully realize that Franco, whom my relatives and friends called Paco Medallas (Frank Medals), was no longer the pariah condemned at the UN. Indeed he was now El Caudillo, recognized as a US ally in the Cold War".

Ronald Hilton - 11.07.03