Where’s Carrillo!

18 Sep

When Lieutenant-Coronel Antonio Tejero and his band of military misfits infamously stormed Spain’s Cortes (parliament) on 23 February and shot several machine gun rounds into the air most of the deputies dropped terrified to the floor and hid. Except for three: acting minister of defence and deputy prime minister General Manuel Gutiérrez Mellado, who remonstrated with Tejero and ordered him to desist, acting prime minister Adolfo Suárez… and Communist Party leader Santiago Carrillo, who calmly lit a cigarette (they were different times) and remained seated.

Many years later, Carrillo, who has died aged 97, said he was sure he was going to be shot. He had only just returned to Spain after nearly four decades in exile following the Spanish Civil War and the following year his political career was once again blown asunder when a poor result at the polls led to his resignation as secretary general of the Communist Party of Spain.

A journalist since working for the “El Socialista” publication aged just 16, he continued to write (newspaper columns and books) and was in great demand as a radio and TV pundit. Though a confirmed republican, he also maintained a close relationship with King Juan Carlos, who personally paid his respects at the family apartment in Madrid on learning of the left-wing maverick’s death.

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