By Linda Hall •
Published: 05 Nov 2023 • 10:05
Caption: CANTON GRANDE: The plaza as it is today
Photo credit: blog.turismo.gal
TWO THOUSAND editions ago, a failed coup d’état could have had an unthinkable outcome for Spain.
La Coruña (Galicia) was chosen for that year’s Armed Forces parade on 2 June, 1985, with a dais for the authorities in the city’s Plaza Canton Grande.
These included King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia, and the Infantas Elena and Cristina but not their brother, Prince Felipe, who was studying in Canada.
Felipe Gonzalez would be present, together with vice-president Alfonso Guerra and the Defence minister Narcis Serra as well as high-ranking Army, Navy and Air Force officers.
The conspirators were later identified as lieutenant colonel Jose Crespo Cuspinera, imprisoned for his involvement in another failed coup intended to prevent the general election of October 1982. Also involved were serving officers major Ricardo Saenz de Inestrillas (assassinated by the Basque terrorist group ETA in 1986) and major Ignacio Gasca. Civilians included a Galician shipowner, Rafael Regueira Fernandez, also known as Lucho.
The group intended to rent a nearby building with a basement and excavate a tunnel where they would place 120 kilos of explosives under the Canton Grande platform that would kill all those present.
After blaming ETA for the massacre they would then declare a military dictatorship owing to the power vacuum, one of the group told the El Pais newspaper after hints from Felipe Gonzalez brought the would-be coup to light in 1997.
“The Coruñeses will know in future what happened in 1985 when we held the Armed Forces Day here,” the former president said during a visit to Galicia in October 1997.
In fact, he and others knew that Spain’s intelligence agency Cesid had suspected that something was afoot from the very beginning.
Regueira Fernandez, a known sympathiser with the hardline Right, had paid too many visits to officers linked to the coups d’état. As well as Crespo, the former lieutenant general Jaime Milans del Bosch who brought out the tanks in Valencia City during the attempted coup of February 23 in 1981. There were also contacts with Antonio Tejero, the ex-Guardia Civil colonel who stormed parliament with his men that day and ex-major Ricardo Pardo Zancada. All were serving sentence in different and far-flung prisons all over Spain.
Needing people on the ground to carry out the bombing, Regueira Fernandez contacted Inestrillas and Gasca who were also associated with the attempt to disrupt the October 20 elections.
Despite the elaborate planning, the coup never materialised.
For reasons that have never been fully explained the plotters aborted the mission in April. According to some sources, there was a falling-out and one of the organisers gave the others away while others maintain that the conspirators realised they were being closely watched by Cesid. Yet others claimed that the entire setup was a smokescreen for an unspecified something else.
None of the conspirators were ever arrested or tried and Gasca was even promoted to colonel before retiring in 1997. There were few of them, they were in Cesid’s sights and no longer considered a danger, insiders pointed out. Felipe Gonzalez’s government did not want to make martyrs of them, they said: “With people convicted of two failed coups already in prison, they didn’t need a third.”
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Originally from the UK, Linda is based in Valenca and is a reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering local news. Got a news story you want to share?
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