42 years ago today, at 9:20 am on 2 March 1974, the execution by garrotte of Salvador Puig Antich, 25-year-old anarchist, began in a cell at La Modelo (The Model) Prison in Barcelona despite a widespread international campaign to spare his life. It took him almost 20 minutes to die, as the medieval device slowly strangled him with each turn. At the same time an East German common criminal named Georg Michael Welzel (alias Heinz Chez) was also killed that day, at Tarragona prison. The two executions were the last time that this horrifically intimate form of execution – a metal band is slowly tightened around the neck by the executioner standing behind with a crank until the victim is asphyxiated – was carried out in Spain.
Salvador Puig Antich was an anarchist, born in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain and active during the 1960s. A member of the Iberian Liberation Movement (Movimiento Ibérico de Liberación) (MIL), he was executed by the Francoist regime after being tried by a military tribunal and found guilty of the death of a Guardia Civil (Spanish gendarme).
Handsome young Salvador was radicalised as a youth in the 1960s under the oppressive semi-fascist Franco dictatorship. As was the style at the time, the Catalan nationalists philosophy soon migrated to anarchism, and he brought his army experience to the Movimiento Ibérico de Liberación (MIL), whose direction-action credo entailed bank robberies branded as “expropriation.”
Puig Antich was caught in a police ambush that also claimed the life of a police officer — at least some of the bullets seemingly delivered by police friendly fire. But his defence that his own gun discharged only as he was beaten senseless by the gendarmes never had a chance, since between arrest and trial, another set of proscribed leftists assassinated Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco.
42 years ago this morrning Salvador Puig Antich was slowly executed in Barcelona by garrote vil by the Franco regime pic.twitter.com/KAZrjIF6pP
— SpanishCivilWarTours (@Civil_War_Spain) March 2, 2016
Blanco’s successor Carlos Arias Navarro went by the handle “Butcher of Malaga” for his depredations as a nationalist prosecutor during the Spanish Civil War. Although recycled as a moderate leader in the last phase of Francoism and the beginning of the transition to democracy, Carlos Arias Navarro was in fact a hard-line politician who had been involved in the White Terror, signing 17,000 thousand death warrants at the time of the dismantling of the Spanish Republic. To help take the political edge off the scene, a non-political murderer, Heinz Chez was garrotted at almost the same time, in a different prison.
In 1931, Spain’s King Alfonso XIII, under the pressure of his country’s sagging economy, agreed to hold democratic elections. It was the first time in nearly 60 years that free elections were allowed in Spain, and the people voted overwhelmingly for a republic and Spain’s monarchy was finished. Alfonso decided to go into exile to avoid large-scale violence, and he left the country in April 1931.
In 1936 Francisco Franco was one of the military leaders of a coup against to overthrow the elected Spanish Democratic Republic in the Spanish Civil War (1936—1939), subsequently establishing his lasting dictatorship. Salvador Puig Antich’s region of Catalonia was the last to fall to Franco’s forces aided by Hitler’s Nazis and Mussolini’s Italian Fascists and suffered particular repression in the years after 1939.
Franco’s ultranationalist faction received military support from several fascist groups, especially Nazi Germany and the Kingdom of Italy. Leaving half a million dead, the war was eventually won by Franco in 1939. He established an autocratic dictatorship, which he defined as a totalitarian state. Franco proclaimed himself head of state and government under the title El Caudillo (the Chief), a term similar to Il Duce (Italian) and Der Führer (German). During the Francoist regime, only one political party was legal: a merger of the monarchist party and the fascist party that helped him during the war, FET y de las JONS.
Franco led a series of politically-motivated violent acts, including but not limited to concentration camps, forced labour and executions, mostly against political and ideological enemies, causing an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 deaths, depending on how death in the more than 190 concentration camps is considered.
Today, powered by its readers and contributors, from its cyber eyries in Ireland and the centres of the Irish Diaspora The Eagle casts its Cold Eye on Life and Death and much in between.