The government has ordered three days of official mourning for former Prime Minister Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo, who died unexpectedly at his home in Madrid last Saturday. He was 82. He is the first of the so-called Prime Ministers of the Democracy to die. His predecessor, Adolfo Suarez, is still alive but suffers from Alzheimer’s and cannot remember the dramatic events that surrounded Sr Calvo Sotelo’s confirmation as Prime Minister. Sr Suarez had resigned on January 29th, 1981, and Sr Calvo Sotelo, an independent MP for Madrid who had won his seat in the 1977 election on the slate of Suarez’s Democratic Centre Union (UCD), was put forward as his successor. His appointment was not confirmed by a majority after the first debate in Parliament on February 22nd. The House was still debating his appointment on February 23rd when a group of Guardia Civil led by Lt Col Antonio Tejera burst in and commanded everyone to hit the floor. The Guardia fired at the ceiling to underline the seriousness of the order and all the people in the chamber instantly obeyed, except Adolfo Suarez and the Deputy Prime Minister Manuel Gutiérrez Mellado, a retired Army general, who remonstrated with the invaders (see photo). The only other person to disobey the order was Communist leader Santiago Carrillo. Sr Calvo Sotelo was confirmed as Prime Minister the following day, and headed the government for 22 months until the Socialists, who had won the general election in October 1982, took over in December. His was considered a caretaker government, although he led Spain into NATO in May 1982. He continued as an MP for Madrid until he retired to enter banking in 1985. However, he supported the formation of the Alianza Popular and the Partido Popular, both offspring of the UCD which did not survive the resignation of its founder, Adolfo Suarez, for very long. All politicians on both Right and Left paid tributes to Sr Calvo Sotelo, which were summed yup by Speaker of the House José Bono who said he “represented tranquility in a turbulent time” and that he had acted with “serenity, intelligence and firmness”, putting his convictions above any political convenience. Sr Calvo will be given a State funeral this Thursday.


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