Right wing admits conspiracy against Gonzalez

Click to follow
The former Spanish prime minister Felipe Gonzalez was not being paranoid when he said murky forces were out to get him. A leading right- wing commentator admits he and a clutch of disaffected journalists plotted to oust the Socialist leader after his fourth election victory in 1993, even at the cost of threatening Spain's young democracy.

"It was an assault operation," says Luis Maria Anson, former editor of the conservative ABC newspaper, now Spain's head of a Mexican media company, Televisa. "Felipe Gonzalez was a man of such extraordinary political power and skill that it was necessary to go to the limit and put the state at risk in order to break him." Mr Anson's remarks in today's Tiempo news magazine, trailed in El Pais newspaper, appear to vindicate what Mr Gonzalez and his supporters claimed throughout his last term in office: that his opponents, dismayed when elections narrowly cheated the conservatives of an expected victory, resorted to a strategy of increasing national tension to achieve his downfall.

Mr Anson's words have reignited a polemic that has rent Spain's chattering classes in recent years, has permeated every media outfit in the country and in which there is now no neutral ground.

Mr Gonzalez said that Mr Anson had revealed a "small part ... of a concerted effort to play dirty", and called upon him to tell the whole truth. "[Mr Anson] knows that the conspirators' plans were much more ambitious" than to replace Mr Gonzalez with a conservative government. This is taken to refer to supposed plans, aired at the time, to provoke the abdication of King Juan Carlos and the establishment of a republic.

Mr Anson says that after the Socialists' narrow victory in 1993 a group of prominent radio, television and print journalists met regularly in his office to plan ways of "raising the threshold of criticism ... by probing the world of irregularities, of corruption." These efforts "reached such extremes that they frequently nudged the stability of the state."

In the Tiempo interview Mr Anson admits "Mr Gonzalez was right when he denounced the threat ... but it was the only way to get him out. Not just because of possible abuses he had committed, if he had, but because of the risk there would never be an alternative government." Mr Anson recalled: "I didn't like sending my reporters on the road with Gonzalez because they would start off criticos and end up Felipistas.

"I myself avoided meeting him ... I couldn't forget coming out of our conversations thinking: `Why must I criticise someone so agreeable, seductive and interesting?' "

Among those named by Mr Anson is Pedro Ramirez, editor of El Mundo newspaper, which yesterday accused the Socialists of being the real conspirators.

They set up the undercover anti-Eta death-squads, the Gal, which killed more than 20 Basques in the early 1980s, then tried to cover up the truth and escape the punishment they deserve, El Mundo said.