To the question of why there are still some doubts about what happened, especially before the coup d’état of 23-F, in its run-up, a former high command of the Higher Defense Information Center (Cesid, today renamed the National Center of Intelligence, CNI) admits in an interview with this newspaper that “the government of Calvo Sotelo, at a very politically complicated moment, wanted to confine the plot strictly to the rebels.” Today “we can interpret the incongruities of the coup, but we lack evidence,” he adds.
The writer Javier Cercas, who for four years investigated the entire plot for his novel Anatomy of an instant , which is now being reissued, strongly maintains that “the only secret of 23-F is that there is no longer any secret” …, although, after thinking about it for a moment, admits: “Perhaps the role of espionage may not be entirely Clear”. Forty years later, Cesid’s possible role in the coup attempt is probably the most controversial aspect.
Read also Ignacio Orovio, Jaume V. Aroca, Santiago Tarín Doubts persist regarding the role of the then secretary general of the department, Javier Calderón, and the head of the operative groups, José Luis Cortina. If Cesid (or some of its members) did not actively participate in the preparation of the coup, how could it be that they did not detect and dismantle it? For Javier Cercas, it is possible that the constant rumors of a coup d’état could make the Tejero assembly go unnoticed, despite the fact that a couple of years before he had already conspired in the so-called Galaxia operation, for which he was convicted.
A former high command of the Spanish secret services, interviewed two weeks ago in Madrid, explains: “Those who had the global data of what happened were a very small group. They hardly planned anything. And at the trial they opted for due obedience. Tejero was a myth for his fight in the north of Spain and that dragged a captain general, with the idea that others would join him. The decision to strike is made expecting a contagion that does not occur. And it doesn’t happen ”.
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In 1981 Cortina was in command of the Cesid’s Special Missions Operational Group (AOME), within which the Special Agents Section (SEA) had also been created, and also under his command. Formed at the Military Academy of Zaragoza, this command of the secret services shared promotion, and company, with Juan Carlos de Borbón.
In his brief of conclusions, the prosecutor who investigated the plot took for granted that at dawn on February 21, 1981, a meeting was held in Madrid between Lieutenant Colonel Tejero and the Infantry commander assigned to Cesid José Luis Cortina Prieto; specifically, at his house, in the Parque de las Avenidas. They are accompanied by the captain of the Civil Guard, also stationed in Cesid, Vicente Gómez Iglesias. Cortina appears before Tejero as a person of confidence of Alfonso Armada. “And he is perfectly aware of the operations that were planned under the two-headed Armada-Milans command,” according to the prosecutor.
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“The fundamental purpose of the interview is to inform Tejero that he must contact General Armada and provide him with the necessary means of Cesid through Captain Gómez Iglesias,” added the indictment.
Cortina would then have offered the cooperation of Gómez Iglesias as coordinator of the transfer of the armed forces that occupied the Congress, with vehicles and communications equipment from Cesid. Specifically, three light cars and three radiotelephones that emitted at frequencies different from those used by the police, to avoid being detected.
“Those who had the global data of what happened were a small group,” says a former Cesid official
Cortina reported that day that even the decree laws that would come into force after the coup were being drafted, that at two hours (“hour H +2”, the coup plotters would say) “a military authority would arrive that would be accepted by different parliamentary groups, presented under the key ‘the elephant is here’ ”.
After that appointment, Tejero commented on some details to General Miláns del Bosch; among others, that the date chosen for the coup was February 23, and that it was Cortina who had chosen it. On February 21, in a telephone conversation, Armada confirmed to Milans del Bosch that Cortina is one of theirs.
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The summary explains how that night a Seat 124 waits on the Paseo de las Delicias for the car that takes the Valdemoro civil guards to guide it to Congress. Before the investigating judge, Sergeant Parra, from Cesid, said that the person who was driving was Corporal Monje, from the same unit, and by order of Captain García Almenta, all of them supposedly under orders from Cortina.
“They are Armada and Cortina who on February 20 and 21 give instructions to Tejero on how to take the Congress,” says historian Roberto Muñoz Bolaños, who has just published 23-F and the other coups d’état of the transition (Editorial Espasa). “El Cesid – he adds – had sent a note saying that in Valencia troops would be needed in the street because it was possible that there were armed communist militias, so it was justified that Milans del Bosch would go out with the tanks.”
A former Cesid agent interviewed by The vanguard , then active, explains that there were links between Cesid and the coup plotters, that Cortina was a man from the Armada and that it was Cesid who made Tejero act so that Armada would appear in Congress and leave the Cortes as the savior of the situation. He added that the secret service provided communications equipment. However, according to the same account, there were differences between Cortina and other officers and the scaffolding collapsed when a general from the center took the initiative and ordered a division head of the department to take care of dismantling the branches, which he did successfully .
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The former Cesid high command interviewed by this newspaper states: “Cortina carried out the orders that were given to him, blocking the entrances to Madrid. But their bosses were in Congress ”. Because, despite all his contacts with the coup plotters, Cortina was acquitted. The other Cesid member who was tried and tried, Civil Guard Captain Vicente Gómez Iglesias (born in La Torre de Cabdella, Lleida), was sentenced to six years in prison, but was pardoned in 1984.
According to data collected by The vanguard That night there were moments of lack of control and ignorance in Cesid.
A newly hired agent at the time, with a mid-level operational position at the time, explained that several of the newer ones were sent to different points in Madrid to warn if troops were approaching the capital. This ex-agent explains to The vanguard that “the secretary general of the center, Javier Calderón, was missing, nobody saw his hair that night.”
“It is Armada and Cortina who explain to Tejero how to take Congress,” says historian Muñoz
The vanguard He proposed through an intermediary interviews with Cortina and Gómez Iglesias, without response.
For the historian Jesús Palacios, who has written several books on that date, on the so-called colonels coup (the hard blow that is avoided with the blow soft de Tejero, and there would have arisen the connivance or cooperation of Cesid) “there is no data. There was a process that involved Milans and two colonels. It was an intelligence operation like the assault on the Central Bank was later, designed to create panic in society regarding the involution and divert things about 23-F. No questions were asked about 23-F. There was a tacit pact of silence to accept the official version, not the real one ”.