Moreover, anti-Americanism was galvanized by President [Reagan Evoked Protest]'s visit to Spain last May. Tens of thousands of Spaniards marched in Madrid on the eve of the visit in protest against Reagan, the United States, the American bases and NATO. The large turnout surprised U.S. officials and persuaded leaders of anti-NATO organizations that a powerful force of anti-Americanism in Spain could be channeled against alliance membership in the referendum.
"The United States made a big mistake with this country," a Spanish journalist said recently. "It will take us a long time to forgive. That is the whole NATO question-nothing else. Do you remember the Crusade for Freedom of Gen. [Dwight D. Eisenhower]? What did the Crusade for Freedom mean to the Spanish people after Hitler and [Benito Mussolini] died?
Although the United States has been a strong supporter of King Juan Carlos I and the elected governments of Spain in the last decade of transition from the [Francisco Franco] dictatorship to democracy, the American image was tarnished a good deal during an abortive coup in 1981 by extreme rightists in the Spanish army and Civil Guard. During the first hours of uncertainty, Alexander M. Haig Jr., then secretary of state, refused in Washington to comment on the event on grounds that it was an internal matter for Spain.