Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Adolfo Suarez, Democratic post-Franco leader of Spain, dies at 81

Photo by Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images
The nation of Spain has mourned for the last three days. On Sunday, Adolfo Suarez, former Prime Minister, was taken to hospital, suffering from respiratory issues. Even before this he'd been suffering from Alzheimer for nearly a decade, it had been years since he remembered his time in power. At hospital, he passed, age 81.

Alfonso Suarez - Photo by AFP
38 years had passed since he'd risen from more regional prominence to national prominence. In the wake of Francisco Franco's death (the longtime dictator of Spain), King Juan Carlos had chosen Suarez to act as Prime Minister and lead efforts to restore the electoral process. While he had served in Franco's government, he proved to be an honest broker in bringing about elections for Spain, and seeing democracy reestablished in the country.

During his efforts he worked to bring all the factions into the process, including those that had long been ostracized and demonized. He worked to restore trade unions, and convinced the Communist Party to engage in the elections. It was not popular with conservatives or the military, but it set the first steps to reviving the democratic process that continues operating to this day.

In the first elections his party won a majority in the parliament and he was properly elected Prime Minister (the first elected since before Franco). But controversy over some of his stands, and economic and social issues, led to him resigning at the next elections. 

Suarez and his Deputy Prime Minister arguing with
military officers - Photo by Manuel Hernandez
de Leon/European Pressphoto Agency
But before he could see the swearing in of a new Prime Minister, the military attempted to retake power. A group of officers marched into the parliament and opened fire. Suarez was among a few that didn't drop to the floor. He later said that as Prime Minister he should never go on bended knee. He helped keep the piece in the parliament as the king and others sorted out the military. He then left power. But he was remembered.

In the years since his time in power, he's become more and more respected for what he accomplished. It was a scary time post-Franco and Suarez acted honestly to do his duty in reasserting elections, and leading the country out of the state Franco had left it in.

Today, following the three days of mourning, Suarez was taken from the Parliament and to the city of Avila, north of Madrid. There he was interred in the Avila Cathedral. His wife, who died, more than 10 years ago of cancer, will be laid to rest beside him.

No comments: