MIGUEL ACOCA, Madrid correspondent for Newsweek
The advent of King Juan Carlos I to the throne, vacant for 44 years, brought
hope that Spain, ruled hy Francisco Franco from thc cnd of the 1936-39 civil war
until his death last November 20, with a harsh authoritarian hand, would start
moving toward a West European democratic system. But although Franco was gone,
the king has been very much a captive of Franco´s institutions and of
politicians who made their mark in the dictatorship. Not only did he have to
swear loyalty and allegiance to the dictator´s political "fundamental
principles," but he had to make political deals with entrenched Franco loyalists
to form his first government.
To be sure, the 37-year-old king tried to put distance between himself and the
Franco legacy with symbolic gestures. After the Caudillo was buried in the
basílica in the Valley of the Fallen, a grandiose monument to the Civil War
dead, the king presided over a Thanksgiving Day mass in Madrid which served as a
sort of coronation and assertion of independence. West European leaders who had
shunned the obsequies for Franco came to mass. French President Valéry Giscard
d´Estaing was hailed by the enthusiastic crowds on Madrid´s streets shouting
"Viva Juan Carlos." West Germán President Walter Scheel received similar
greetings. So did Prince Philip, husband of Britain´s Queen Elizabeth II.
The presence of two West European democrats and of Philip, the envoy of a
democratic monarchy, was a symbolic signal that Spain´s neighbors supported the
king and expected him to lead the country, long blackballed from entry into the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Community because of
Franco´s associations with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy during World War II,
into a new era that would dismantle the past.
It was signifkant that at the royal mass Vicente Cardinal Enrique y Tarancon,
who in the past four years orchestrated the Román Catholic Church´s demands for
civil rights, freedom of expression, and political parties, warned the king that
the Spanish church expected his reign to "respect, without discrimination of
privileges, the rights of the human person, and protect and promote the exercise
of adequate freedom for all. . . ." More than anybody, the cardinal formulated
what will become the major challenge to the king—granting the Spanish people
"the necessary common participation in all common problems and in the decisions
of government," something denied by Franco and by his corporative institution.
Although the king has made it clear to friends and diplomáis that he favored
democratic evolution and what in his inaugural speech he called "extensive
improvements," he also stressed that his political program of transition from an
authoritarian regime to a representative monarchy was a two-year task. He
expressed a fear of the right-wing of the regime, associated with Franco and his
restricted political ideáls, with the Falange, Spain´s fascist party, and the
National Movement, which incorporales all the groups that supported Franco
during the war and his long rule.
Another major threat to the king, and the monarchist restoration imposed by
Franco, are the outlawed Spanish left-wing parties, which have resumed their
activities despite continual hounding by the state´s pólice machinery. The
strongest of these, needless to say, is the Communist Party, which has managed
not only to survive but to maintain a constant strength of 10-15 per cent of the
adult population in the past five years.
The king´s first major political loss, however, was inflicted by the regime´s
rightwing. The "bunker," as it is called in Spain, blocked his nomination for
premier. He had let it be known that he wanted either
Manuel Fraga, a dynamic regime modérate who served as Franco´s information
minister and ambassador to London, or José Maria Areilza, a conservative
monarchist and former ambassador to Washington and París. Both men have
advocated regime reforms to ease Spain´s entry into the European Community and
NATO, and to defuse the pentup demand for political pluralism in the country
itself. The right-wing vetoed their nomination in the Council of the Realm, a
constitutional body created by Franco to filter and narrow the choice of premier
after he was gone from the scene.
Burned in his first political initiative, the king backed away from a contest
and decided to retain Carlos Arias as chief of government. By keeping Arias,
named by Franco in 1973 to serve a five-year term, the king made a concession to
the past. The deal gave the king the chance to have Fraga in the cabinet as vice
premier and interior minister and Areilza as foreign minister. Fraga represents
regime forces seeking renewal and adaptation to the times. Areilza gives the
king a voice to Europe and the United States, and a keen analyst who can advise
him on the pitfalls that he faces abroad and at home.
But the number two man in the cabinet was a military officer, Lieutenant General
Fernando de Santiago, who becamc first vice premier in charge of defense affairs
and minister without portfolio. Just before
he was appointed, he delivered a speech calling "subversión" Spain´s greatest
peril, and on taking office he remarked that the Spanish people wanted a life
without "swift breaks" with the past and "without adventure."
In a succinct way, the general summed up the king´s—and Spain´s—dilemma: How to
give the Spanish people what they want without antagonizing the extreme right,
which dislikes conservative monarchists like Areilza and dynamic modérates like
Fraga, and without collapsing the institutions inherited from Franco. Yet the
general is a watchdog for the armed forces, which, while not political, are
divided between young officers who want change and sénior Civil War officers who
want to modify and modernize the system.
The outlawed left, feeling deprived once again, took to the streets to make its
weight felt and to call, attention to the world that the king was a captiva of
the system. The king´s pardon of political and common prisoners was denounced as
"limited" and "restricted." When Marcelino Camacho, Communist leader of the
underground workers´ commissions, now Spain´s most powerful labor organization,
was freed under the terms of the pardon, he called the royal gesture "an insult"
because it wasn´t a general amnesty for all political prisoners, estimated at
2000, and because it did not allow the return of political exiles, many of whom
have been abroad since the end of the Civil War.
The left—led by the Communists—orchestrated a campaign of demonstration whose
rallying cry was amnesty. A party spokesman said, "We´ll continué the demand
until something gives. Amnesty is the cornerstone of political freedom in Spain.
Without it, there can be no healing of the wounds of the Civil War and