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1981: Rebel army seizes control in Spain

VIDEO : BBC News reports on the Spanish crisis

Spain is in a state of political confusion after an attempted right-wing coup.

This evening about 200 soldiers and members of the paramilitary Civil Guard stormed the lower house of the Spanish Parliament, the Cortes, firing automatic weapons and shouting orders.

They took hostage about 350 MPs debating a new government.

The group - led by Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero Molina, an officer of the Civil Guard - told all those present to lie down.

Lt Col Tejero then called on the King to make an announcement.

All streets around the building have been sealed off.

The coup plot originated in Valencia, in eastern Spain, under the command of Lieutenant General Jaime Milan del Bosch.

A supporter of the late dictator General Franco, the former commander of the elite Brunete Armoured Division near Madrid was recently transferred because of his opposition to the new political order and was suspected of plotting against it.

The general has declared a state of emergency and ordered tanks onto the streets of Valencia.

In Madrid the rebel army took over the radio and TV stations for 90 minutes. They dispersed when riot police arrived on the scene.

Attempts to restore order

The King meanwhile has called on the civil service to take on the role of parliament based at Zarzuela Palace.

The joint chiefs-of-staff issued a communiqué saying all measures had been taken to put down the rebellion and restore order.

Despite these reassurances Spaniards are now wondering how long their five-year democracy can last.

Although Spain's transition from dictatorship to democracy has been fairly smooth - until now - there have been rumblings of discontent among the right.

A few weeks ago Spain's first democratically elected prime minister Adolfo Suarez resigned.

It is believed he was under pressure by the right wing of his Democratic Centre Union party and the armed forces about concessions made to separatists in Catalonia and the Basque regions.

In Context
Early the following day, King Juan Carlos appeared on national TV to tell the people he had ordered the armed forces to take all necessary measures to put down the coup.

The rebel forces and their leaders surrendered and released their captives 22 hours after the siege of the Cortes had started.

The revolt was further damaged by the coup generals' failure to drum up support from other army units around the country.

One more plot was foiled when a group of colonels was discovered planning to seize power on the eve of the October 1982 general election.

The Spanish government was involved in a long-running campaign against the violence of the Basque separatist group Eta.

The group declared a permanent ceasefire on 22 March 2006.

But in December 2006 a bomb went off at Madrid's airport leaving two people missing, presumed dead. Eta was blamed for the attack.

In January 2007, the Spanish Government declared the peace process "broken, liquidated, finished".


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