surinenglish

King Felipe remembers key role of his father Juan Carlos in stopping military coup 40 years ago

King Felipe talking with MPs in parliament's debating chamber on Tuesday about the events there in 1981.
King Felipe talking with MPs in parliament's debating chamber on Tuesday about the events there in 1981. / EP
  • Some politicians have called for classified documents about the 1981 attempted takeover to be made public

The frightening events of 23 February 1981 are etched in the memory of every Spaniard who is old enough to remember them.

This week politicians and dignitaries met in the Congreso de los Diputados parliament building in Madrid to mark the fortieth anniversary of the failed military coup.

King Felipe VI, who led the event on Tuesday, was only 13 when news reached the Royal Family that Guardia Civil officer Antonio Tejero had taken MPs hostage in the parliament chamber as the first stage of an insurrection by some in the armed forces.

The King remembered the key role in ending the crisis played by his father, former King Juan Carlos, who he said had been "decisive for the defence and triumph of democracy".

While King Juan Carlos's late-night television address in 1981 is seen as successfully putting an end to the coup d'état, there was much comment this week on the absence of the former head of state, in self-imposed exile in Abu Dhabi while his financial affairs are investigated.

The leader of the government coalition partners, anti-capitalist Unidas Podemos did not applaud King Felipe's speech.

"Forty years on, monarchy is no longer a precondition of [Spanish] democracy," Pablo Iglesias said.

Some left-wing and nationalist parties called for all documents around the failed coup to be declassified so as to "know for sure" what really went on.

Tuesday's event in Madrid drew together many people who had been held hostage in 1981, including MPs, parliamentary staff and journalists, who all shared anecdotes from 40 years ago.