15 January 2012: The death of Manuel Fraga, founder of the PP

Fraga as UK ambassador after a meeting with the Queen in 1973.
Fraga as UK ambassador after a meeting with the Queen in 1973. / SUR
  • As minister for tourism and information he was behind the 'Spain is Different' slogan and was ambassador to the UK during the 1970s

On 15 January 2012 Manuel Fraga, Franco's tourism and information minister, who went on to found the Alianza Popular - the forerunner to today's Partido Popular party - died of heart failure in Madrid.

Fraga, (Villalba, Lugo, 23 November 1922) had risen through the ranks of Franco's regime during the 1950s and '60s and became minister for tourism and information in 1966.

As tourism minister, Fraga particularly focused on encouraging foreign visitors to the Costas and was the person behind the famous 'Spain is Different' catchphrase, which was used in tourism campaigns during the 1950s and 60s.

In 1966 Fraga sought to reassure locals in Almeria and potential tourists that there was no threat to their health after four atomic bombs fell near Palomares, three on land and one in the sea.

The bombs were being carried by a US Air Force B-52 bomber, which was flying alongside a refuelling aircraft. The two planes collided, killing seven airmen.

To prove there was no danger, Fraga and US ambassador Angier Biddle Duke bathed in the sea near Palomares, in front of press and television cameras. Experts stated in 1986, however, that the sea off Palomares had the worst plutonium contamination levels anywhere in the world.

In 1973 Fraga took up the role of Spanish ambassador to the UK until Franco's death in November 1975.

After the dictator's death, Fraga became deputy prime minister under King Juan Carlos I's interim government and in September 1976 he formed the Alianza Popular party, which was the forerunner to what is now the Partido Popular. Fraga's party only won 16 seats and less than 10 per cent of the vote in Spain's first democratic elections for 40 years, which were held on 15 June 1977.

Fraga went on to become a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) in the 1980s and president of the Junta de Galicia in 2005. He eventually retired from politics in 2011. There is an avenue named after him in Torremolinos.