Spain's Army moves into new NATO era - despite Franco nostalgia

Nine months after the abortive coup last February, Spain's top-heavy Army hasn't changed appreciably. Ten to twenty percent of the brass, mainly in the ranks of lieutenant colonel to general, are generally considered to be active sympathizers of another coup or military junta. Another ten to fifteen percent in the younger captain and major category are decidedly pro-democratic.

The rest of the Army, though deeply conservative, is highly disciplined, and would obey whoever is in charge.

Most of the Air Force and Navy were staunch defenders of the constitution during the coup attempt. They are professionally ashamed of the operetta performance of Lt. Col. Antonio Tejero? who stormed parliament, pistol in hand.

The Army brass that is nostalgic for Franco and longs for another coup belong to another era. Educated in the civil war and post war period under Franco, these older officers have been automatically promoted over the years. They have no active commands and so have abundant free time with little to do but sit around playing an old traditional Spanish card game, 'mus'.

Between hands they reminisce over old times and lament the sorry state of Spain's democracy with its intolerable regionalist pressures that threaten to disintegrate the national union of the nation. They lament its terrorism, bungling politicians, rising street crime, economic woes . . . and the ''vacuum of power'' that needs to be filled by an Army of ''national salvation''.

Franco nostalgia always seems to reach a height within reactionary sections of the Army at this time of the year. But by next year, many colonels and generals will be too busy learning English and computer language in preparation for Spain's entrance into NATO to have time to reminisce about the good old days of Franco.

Although the Air Force and Navy look forward to NATO membership, extreme rightist sections of the Army are against the alliance. They view it as part of the ''corrupt Western world'' that would contaminate the ''eternal values of Spain''. In addition, they worry that they will have to become competitive, learn languages, study what may seem like electronic gobbledygook . . . and face the end of their old lifestyle.

It is thought here that Army modernization and a conscientious policy of promoting highly qualitied and democratic officers may be the key to putting to an end Franco's influence forever.

Although the 12 strategic positions within the Army necessary for carrying out a coup are presently occupied by generals considered to be pro-democratic, socialist member of Parliament Luis Solana warns that there haven't been enough changes at other influential levels. The government has not exercised a firm policy of promoting democratic officers, Solana insists, nor has it relegated coup sympathizers to benign neglect.

But many of the nationalist diehards, who fought alongside Hitler as volunteers in World War II, still harbor a deep disgust for the allied powers.

They also have little in common with the new crop of highly trained young professional officers of the Spanish Air Force and Navy who must pass difficult examinations for promotions. These well-qualified officers, including some Army officers as well, travel to other countries for specialized training, and understand not only computers and high technology but also English

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