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SPAIN: La Benemerita/The Guardia Civil

I put on my hook as bait a small piece of praise for the Spain's Guardia Civil (rural police), knowing that fishing would be good. Christopher Jones snapped at it:

"Known as "the Well Deserving," the Guardia Civil was always under the command of an Army General appointed by the Armed Forces minister. Later the PSOE government gave it a civilian chief, Luis Roldán, who promptly turned into the biggest thief of the post Franco period. (he remains behind bars.) For me it is a wonder that this corps which goes back about 150 years (it was created in 1854 if I am not mistaken) has not been disbanded. It is know for its brutality, its green uniforms and Tricornio and its unshakable loyalty and lust for power. This means that the Guardia Civil could easily serve the Republic with the same enthusiasm as Generals Primo de Rivera or Franco.

There are so many Guardia Civil stories in Spain that they could easily fill volumes. But its greatest moment of infamy must have been on the night of the investiture of Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo as successor to the Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez on February 23,1981. Lt. Col Antonio Tejero Molina led about 50 Guardias into the Spanish parliament to stage a golpe de estado and install a military government in Spain. The King defused the coup and the plotters were sent to jail.

More in tune with recent WAIS discussions on terrorism is the fate of Guardia Civil General Galindo who was sent to jail for ordering the torture and murder of two ETA suspects responsible for countless acts of terrorism. Among many Spaniards he is a hero and is scheduled to be released sometime soon.

All that said, I agree, I have always found the Guardia Civiles charming, polite and very Andaluz".

RH: "unshakable loyalty"? Then how do you explain its attempted coup? A minor flaw in the Spanish language is the word "tricornio". It no longer has a three-pointed hat, but a cylinder with a board on the back.

Ronald Hilton - 3/2/03