"Our commitment to Spain and the Constitution offers no doubt, and we have demonstrated this in our day-to-day actions". In the midst of the controversy over the letters to the king and the belligerent WhatsApp group of retired military officers against the Spanish government, the head of the defence staff, Miguel Ángel Villarroya, wanted to disassociate the armed forces from the controversial actions by the former commanders, who were defending - among other things - the execution of millions of Spaniards. The Spanish government has asked the Public Prosecutor's Office to investigate. In a statement on the occasion of the 42nd anniversary of the Constitution, the chief of staff argues that "the opinions of these people cannot be considered representative of the group of which they were once part [the army], but must be seen as the opinions of individual citizens.
"Today's armed forces do not look to the past," Villarroya says of the Francoist positions emerging from the investigated chat, and stresses that their task is none other than "to protect the Spanish people" so that they can achieve "their aspirations in peace and security". "Always at the service of all Spaniards and of the Constitution", he assures, and insists that the Constitution "inspires" all the actions of the army and, therefore, also the "commitment" with its "political neutrality": "The military condition entails the limitation of certain fundamental rights, such as the participation in demonstrations or political, union or protest activities, the affiliation to or collaboration with political parties or trade unions and the public expression of opinions on these subjects", he recalls.
Robles criticizes links between the army and the Franco regime
The chief of defence staff admits that the opinions of the former senior officers "spoil" the image of the army and "confuse" public opinion, but makes it very clear that "the armed forces are at the service of all Spaniards, regardless of where they were born or what they think". This thesis was also underlined in an interview with Cadena SER by the Minister of Defence, Margarita Robles, who wanted to play down the importance of the former officials' letters and whatsapp chats. Despite having asked the public prosecutor's office to investigate, Robles has linked them to people who have appropriated a condition they no longer have and who "did not deserve to have worn the uniform". However, she has criticised both Vox's desire to claim the armed forces for themselves and the general "interest" in linking them to Francoism, and has said that "the only value" that moves the active military is the Constitution. At one point in the interview, she even went so far as to say that many of the young members of the armed forces "don't know very well who Franco was".
Garzón calls on Felipe VI to distance himself from the retired military
Just as the ministers of the PSOE strive to defend the reputation of the army, those of Unidas Podemos point fingers at the monarchy. The Minister of Consumption, Alberto Garzón, defended on TVE that Felipe VI would have to "dissociate himself" from the remarks by the retired military who addressed a letter to him defining the Sánchez executive as a "social-communist government supported by ETA supporters and independentists" and warning of the risk to "national cohesion". "The neutrality of the monarchy is defended both actively and passively," Garzón said, despite the fact that the Spanish vice-president and leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, considered this Thursday that the monarch would not need to comment on this issue. Iglesias did point out that "surrounding the monarchy with Francoism" contributes to staining its role of "neutrality" and that, in the end, it helps to add supporters to the Republican cause.