Spanish democracy put to test as upsurge in terrorist violence shakes Army and nation
Spain's leading political parties have called for two minutes of silence throughout the nation May 8 in protest against a sharp increase in terrorist acts and in defense of the democratic institutions.
The gesture follows the most violent and destabilizing week in Spain since last February's abortive military coup. In three separate incidents, two in Madrid and one in Barcelona, two leading democratic figures in the Spanish armed forces have been attacked. One of them was killed. A further five members of the security forces have also died.
The incidents, which bear all the marks of being the work of the mysterious terrorist organization GRAPO (whose Spanish initials stand for the first of October anti-fascist resistance groups), culminated May 7 in an attack on the life of Lt. Col. Joaquin Valenzuela, the head of King Juan Carlos's military household.
The incident took place when two motorcyclists driving down a central street in Madrid placed a sports bag containing a bomb on the roof of Colonel Valenzuela's car. The bomb went off in a matter of seconds, killing Col. Valenzuela's bodyguard, an Army lieutenant colonel, and the driver.
The incident brings to 25 the number of people killed in terrorist incidents in Spain so far this year. It followed an attack in Madrid May 4 when a three-man commando group of the GRAPO shot Gen. Andres Gonzales de Suso as he was leaving his home for work. Like Colonel Valenzuela, General de Suso was known for his liberal and democratic views. Until recently he had acted as press spokesman for Gen. Gutierrez Mellado, who was minister of defense from 1977 until February this year and in charge of a democratic reform of the Spanish armed forces. Later May 4 the GRAPO were also held responsible by police for shooting two Civil Guards in a bar in Barcelona.
Unlike the terrorist killings of Spain's Basque separatist organization, ETA (Basque Homeland and Freedom), which are principally directed against right-wing sectors in the armed forces, the attacks of the GRAPO tend to be directed against moderates and liberals.
GRAPO, whose aims and ideology have always been obscure, was launched in October 1975, when General Franco was on his deathbed.
Its victims have included Jesus Haddad, who was appointed director-general of Spain's prisons with the task of carrying out a reform of prison personnel, and a liberal supreme court judge. In 1979 GRAPO was also responsible for the death of an Army general and was widely suspected in connection with a bomb attack on a cafe in central Madrid that left at least 12 dead and 70 injured.
The latest incidents have taken many observers by surprise. After a police crackdown on GRAPO last year, Ministry of Interior officials announced for the third time that GRAPO had been dismantled. A similar claim had been made in 1979 when six leading members of the organization were detained. But five of them subsequently escaped with apparent ease from a prison in Zaragosa, northeast Spain.
These developments and the latest incidents have fueled speculation among Spanish opposition politicians and ordinary people that the attacks attributed to GRAPO are really the work of right-wing agents provocateurs a imed at provoking the armed forces to stage another coup attempt.