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COLD-WAR SPAIN; Dancing With the Dictator; In 1953, Eisenhower embraced Franco--and disgraced America.
[HOME EDITION]
Los Angeles Times - Los Angeles, Calif.
Subjects: Anniversaries; Dictators; History; Agreements; Military bases
Author: Meisler, Stanley
Date: Jan 4, 2004
Start Page: M.2
Section: Opinion; Part M; Editorial Pages Desk
Abstract (Document Summary)

The book is not an anti-American diatribe. [Angel Vinas] is more troubled by [Francisco Franco]'s willingness to sacrifice Spanish sovereignty for a U.S. seal of approval on his regime. For an American, however, the U.S. betrayal of principle is far more shocking. It must have been dispiriting a half-century ago to watch Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander who had led the Allies to victory in World War II, embrace the pompous little tyrant Franco who had strode to power in the Spanish Civil War using weapons supplied by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

The Franco regime was never more fragile. But it did not fall apart. The Cold War turned perceptions and pledges upside down. The Pentagon insisted it needed more bases to hem in the Soviet Union. Franco ruled a country that lay on the right spot. The United States signed the pact with Spain during the first year of the Eisenhower administration. In exchange for the bases, Franco received military assistance, some economic support and, most important, the implied moral backing of the United States. The clandestine democratic opposition in Spain was in despair.

After Franco died in 1975 and Spain transformed itself into a democracy, Spanish leftists and other democrats who had chafed under his dictatorship were suspicious about U.S. intentions. Their wariness was exacerbated in 1981 when reactionary officers of the Civil Guard and army tried to overthrow the elected government. While democratic governments around the world condemned the unsuccessful coup attempt and voiced their support of King Juan Carlos and the new Spanish democracy, U.S. Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. maintained a foolish neutrality, describing the event in Spain as an "internal matter." It sounded as if the Americans still hankered for Francoism. Haig's fatuous remark, which had infuriated Spaniards of both the right and the left, damaged Spanish-American relations for several years.

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