Spanish minister condemns far-right chats of ex-military men

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s defense minister has asked prosecutors to investigate leaked chats of retired military officers allegedly talking about shooting political adversaries and praising late dictator Gen. Francisco Franco.

The messages from a private Whatsapp group were published by the Infolibre news website. They reportedly were sent by members of the General Air Force Academy class that started training in 1963, when Franco still ruled the country.

Some of them were among dozens of retired officers who wrote King Felipe VI last month to criticize Spain’s left-wing coalition government. The letters to the monarch included some of the language used by far-right politicians and expressed discontent with the “social-communist” government led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and its deals with separatist parties in parliament.

Neither the king nor the royal palace have commented on the letter.

Defense Minister Margarita Robles said Thursday that both the letters and the chats are “reprehensible” and that they don’t represent the views of the Spanish Armed Forces.

“There are some who, cloaked as members of a military (force) they no longer belong to, are trying to either put the head of state in a complicated situation or are trying to tarnish the name of the Armed Forces,” she told reporters.

According to Infolibre, one of the WhatsApp chat participants, while discussing activists advocating for the northeastern Catalonia region’s independence from Spain, wrote: “There is no other choice but to start shooting 26 million (expletive).”

At one point, another group chat member referred to Franco, who led a military rebellion that led to Spain’s 1936-39 Civil War and then became the country’s dictator, as “the Irreplaceable.”

The military was a backbone of Franco’s regime until the dictator died in 1975. Spain’s peaceful transition to democracy didn’t lead to a widespread purge in its ranks as happened in other countries emerging from authoritarian regimes.

In 1981, a coup d’état attempt by a few members of a paramilitary police force ended when then-King Juan Carlos I, Felipe’s father, condemned their plot on national television.

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