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Two parts cultural commentary, one part personal ranting. Serve with a side of political debate. May contain sarcasm.

Spanish History 103: From Dictator to Democracy to Corruption (the fun cliffnotes version)
25 September 2014 @ 15:02

This post follows on from History 101 and History 102



The Death of a Dictator

Franco's health started deteriorating in the early 1970s. He was getting on a bit and he knew it so he started to dish out his power. He named Juan Carlos de Borbon as his heir-apparent. This was a bit of a surprise as Juan Carlos's dad, Don Juan, had a superior right to the throne. But Franco, being a dictator, wasn't one for following 'rights'. Juan Carlos had been raised and educated under strict guidance from Franco and Franco believed that he would continue ruling under the same mantra after he'd gone. That he'd continue the dictatorship. 


Franco had a long-running battle with Parkinson's and fell extremely ill in 1974, handing over the role of Acting Head of State to Juan Carlos. When he died on the 20th November 1975, the now King Juan Carlos decided to have Franco buried in the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen). Franco had had it designed and built to honour those who had fallen during the Civil War.




Luckily for Spain, Juan Carlos decided not to continue ruling as Franco had done, but instead steered the country towards democracy.


The transition to democracy wasn't easy for Juan Carlos. Many of Franco's supporters expected him to continue ruling as Franco did, so trying to make Spain a democracy was a tricky task. One which he pulled off spectacularly;


It was a long and complicated process as he had to work within the very tight framework of laws set by Franco. A new political regime couldn't just be created; Franco's dictatorship regime had to be dissolved through the Francoist government itself.

This came about in the form of the Ley para la Reforma Política (Law for Political Reform) and a referendum in 1977. 97.4% of the population agreed to the bill. This legalised political parties (previously banned under Franco) and the democratic election of parliament.

Of course, there were traditional Francoists who weren't at all happy with the democratic direction that Juan Carlos was taking the country in, and there was an attempted coup in 1981. But Juan Carlos was extremely charismatic, and very popular with the people; he gave a speech on television denouncing the coup and just like that the coupers surrendered the next day. The Basque terrorists also eased up considerably when the ban on regional languages was lifted.


Spain joined NATO in 1982 the EU (then the EEC) in 1986 and became an economic powerhouse. Spain invested heavily in construction and tourism and the economy boomed. Juan Carlos was therefore extremely popular with the public, not only had he helped transorm Spain from a dictatorship into a functioning democracy, Spain was riding high. One particular highlight was in 2007 when he told the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, to shut the hell up. It was brilliant, everyone loved him for it, so much that it was even made into a ringtone. He was the people's king. 



Things started turning sour for Juan Carlos with the economic crisis, when he started hunting and killing endangered elephants on African safari (while the rest of the country was in economic crisis) and when his family became involved in heated corruption scandals.


He tearfully stepped down as king last month. A sad ending to what should have been a legendary story. 

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