History of Spain


Franco's Political System

The leader of the Nationalist forces, General Franco, headed the authoritarian regime that came to power in the aftermath of the Civil War. Until his death in November 1975, Franco ruled Spain as "Caudillo by the grace of God," as his coins proclaimed. In addition to being generalissimo of the armed forces, he was both chief of state and head of government, the ultimate source of legitimate authority. He retained the power to appoint and to dismiss ministers and other decision makers. Even after he grew older, began to lose his health, and became less actively involved in policy making, Franco still had the final word on every major political decision.

Ideology or political theories were not the primary motivators in Franco's developing of the institutions that came to be identified with his name. Franco had spent his life as a professional soldier, and his conception of society was along military lines. Known for his iron political nerve, Franco saw himself as the one designated to save Spain from the chaos and instability visited upon the country by the evils of parliamentary democracy and political parties, which he blamed for destroying the unity of Spain. His pragmatic goal was to maintain power in order to keep what he termed the "anti-Spain" forces from gaining ascendancy.

The political structures established under Franco's rule represented this pragmatic approach. Because he never formulated a true, comprehensive, constitutional system, Franco had great flexibility in dealing with changing domestic and international situations. Seven fundamental laws decreed during his rule provided the regime with a semblance of constitutionalism, but they were developed after the fact, usually to legitimize an existing situation or distribution of power.

The first of these fundamental laws was the Labor Charter, promulgated on March 9, 1938. It set forth the social policy of the regime, and it stressed the mutual obligations of the state and its citizens: all Spaniards had the duty to work, and the state was to assure them the right to work. Although the decree called for adequate wages, paid vacations, and a limit to working hours, it ensured labor's compliance with the new regime by labeling strikes as treason. Later legislation required Spanish workers to join vertical syndicates in which both owners and employees were supposed to cooperate for the good of the nation.

Another fundamental law, the Constituent Law of the Cortes (1942), provided the trappings of constitutionalism. This Cortes (Spanish Parliament), was purely an advisory body, and it had little in common with democratic legislatures. Most of its members were indirectly elected or appointed, and many were already part of the administration. The Cortes did not have the right to initiate legislation or to vote against the government; it could only approve laws presented by the executive. There was no vestige of power attached to this function because the law permitted Franco to legislate by decree without consulting the Cortes. The Council of Ministers, the members of which were appointed by, and presided over, by Franco, exercised executive authority. Franco had the right to dismiss these ministers.

Following the Allied victories in 1945, Franco sought to impress the world's democratic powers with Spain's "liberal" credentials by issuing a fundamental law that was ostensibly a bill of rights--the Charter of Rights. The rights granted by this charter were more cosmetic than democratic, because the government bestowed them and could suspend them without justification; furthermore, the charter placed more emphasis on the duty of all Spaniards to serve their country and to obey its laws than on their basic rights as citizens. Thus, for example, the charter guaranteed all Spaniards the right to express their opinions freely, but they were not to attack the fundamental principles of the state.

The Law on Referenda, also issued in 1945, was a further attempt by Franco to make his regime appear less arbitrary. It provided that issues of national concern would be submitted for the consideration of Spanish citizens by means of popular referenda. Franco decreed this law without having consulted the Cortes, however, and he retained the sole right to determine whether a referendum would be called. The law stipulated that after 1947, a referendum would have to be called in order to alter any fundamental law; Franco retained the right to decree such laws, however--a right which he exercised in 1958.

Additional measures that were taken in the immediate postwar years to provide the Franco regime with a facade of democracy included pardons and reduced terms for prisoners convicted of civil war crimes and a guarantee that refugees who returned would not be prosecuted if they did not engage in political activities. The regime announced new elections for municipal councils; council members were to be selected indirectly by syndicates and heads of "families." The government retained the right to appoint all mayors directly.

The Law of Succession (1947) was the first of the fundamental laws to be submitted to popular referendum. It proclaimed that Spain would be a "Catholic, social, and representative monarchy" and that Franco would be regent for life (unless incapacitated). Franco had the authority to name the next king when he thought the time was appropriate and also to revoke his choice at a later date if he so desired. The law also provided for a Council of the Realm to assist Franco in the exercise of executive power and for a three-member Regency Council to be in charge of the government during the period of transition to the Caudillo's successor. When the plebiscite was held, over 90 percent of the 15 million voters approved the measures. Although the Law of Succession ostensibly reestablished the monarchy, it actually solidified Franco's rule and legitimized his position as head of state by popular suffrage.

The sixth fundamental law, the Law on the Principles of the National Movement--which Franco decreed unilaterally in 1958-- further defined the institutions of Franco's government. The National Movement--a coalition of right-wing groups referred to as political "families"--termed a "communion" rather than a party, was designated as the sole forum for political participation. The law reaffirmed the nature of Spain as a traditional, Catholic monarchy. All top government officials, as well as all possible future successors to Franco, were required to pledge their loyalty to the principles embodied in this law (which was presented as a synthesis of all previous fundamental laws).

The final fundamental law, the Organic Law of the State, was presented in 1966. It incorporated no major changes, but was designed to codify and to clarify existing practices, while allowing for some degree of reform. It established a separation between the functions of the president of government (prime minister) and the head of state, and it outlined the procedures for the selection of top government officials. It included other measures designed to modernize the Spanish system and to eliminate vestiges of fascist terminology. Although presented as a move toward democratization, it nevertheless retained the basic structure of an authoritarian system.

Franco initially derived his authority from his victory in the Civil War. The armed forces gave his regime security; the Roman Catholic Church and the National Movement gave it legitimacy. The National Movement was the only recognized political organization in Franco's Spain. It was not a political party, and it did not have an overt ideological basis. Its membership included monarchists, Falangists, conservative Catholics, members of the armed forces, as well as business groups with (vested interests in continuity), technocrats, and civil servants. Although there was some overlap among these groups, they had distinct, and often contradictory, interests. The force that fused them together was their common loyalty to Franco. Franco was particularly skillful in manipulating each of these "families," giving each a taste of power, but not allowing any group or individual to create an independent base from which to challenge his authority.

Franco's political system was virtually the antithesis of the final government of the republican era--the Popular Front government. In contrast to the anticlericalism of the Popular Front, the Francoist regime established policies that were highly favorable to the Catholic Church, which was restored to its previous status as the official religion of Spain. In addition to receiving government subsidies, the church regained its dominant position in the education system, and laws conformed to Catholic dogma. Gains in regional autonomy were reversed under Franco, and Spain reverted to being a highly centralized state. The regime abolished regional governmental bodies and enacted measures against the use of the Basque and the Catalan languages. Further contrast between the Popular Front government and the Franco regime was apparent in their bases of support. Whereas the liberal leftists and the working class elements of society had supported the Popular Front, the conservative upper classes were the mainstay of Franco's government.

Above all, Franco endeavored to remove all vestiges of parliamentary democracy, which he perceived to be alien to Spanish political traditions. He outlawed political parties, blaming them for the chaotic conditions that had preceded the Civil War. He eliminated universal suffrage and severely limited the freedoms of expression and association; he viewed criticism of the regime as treason.

In spite of the regime's strong degree of control, Franco did not pursue totalitarian domination of all social, cultural, and religious institutions, or of the economy as a whole. The Franco regime also lacked the ideological impetus characteristic of totalitarian governments. Furthermore, for those willing to work within the system, there was a limited form of pluralism. Thus, Franco's rule has been characterized as authoritarian rather than totalitarian.

Whereas there is generally consensus among analysts in designating the regime as authoritarian, there is less agreement concerning the fascist component of Franco's Spain. In its early period, the Francoist state was considered, outside Spain, to be fascist. The Falangist program of national syndicalism reflected the pattern of fascism prevalent in Europe during those years; nevertheless, core Falangists never played a major role in the new state. Most of the key leaders of the Falange did not survive the Civil War, and Franco moved quickly to subordinate the fascist party, merging it as well as more conservative and traditional political forces into the broader and vaguer National Movement under his direct control. The links between Franco's regime and the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the course of international developments, further mitigated the fascist component. Thus, while there was a definite fascist element during the first decade of Franco's rule, most analysts have concluded that early Francoism can more accurately be described as semifascist.

Policies, Programs, and Growing Popular Unrest

Severe repression marked the early years of the regime, as Franco sought to impose absolute political control and to institutionalize the Nationalist victory in the Civil War. The schisms that had preceded and precipitated the war were maintained as the vanquished were excluded from political participation. Franco restricted individual liberties and suppressed challenges to his authority. The regime imposed prison terms for "revolutionary activity," and executions were carried out through 1944, albeit at a decreasing rate. These repressive measures engendered an atmosphere of fear. In addition, the traumatic effect of years of internecine violence, widespread deprivations, suffering, and disillusionment had left most of the Spanish population acquiescent, willing to accept any system that could restore peace and stability.

During the first phase of the regime, the military played a major role. The state of martial law that was declared in July 1936 remained in effect until 1948. With the backing of the armed forces, Franco used his extensive powers to invalidate all laws of the Second Republic that offended his political and ethical beliefs. He banned civil marriage, made divorce illegal, and made religious education compulsory in the schools. Publications were subject to prior censorship, and public meetings required official permission. He returned most of the land nationalized under the republic's agrarian program to its original owners. The state destroyed trade unions, confiscating their funds and property. Vertical syndicates replaced the unions.

In 1939 Franco initiated a program of reconstruction based on the concept of economic self-sufficiency or autarchy. The program, aimed at increasing national economic production, favored the established industrial and financial interests at the expense of the lower classes and the agricultural regions. Acute shortages and starvation wages were widespread in the early 1940s, a period which saw the worst inflation in Spain's history. By the end of the decade, Spain's level of economic development was among the lowest in southern Europe. Furthermore, the ostracism that Spain experienced because of Franco's collaboration with the Axis powers during World War II and because of the dictatorial nature of his regime deprived the country of the benefits of the Marshall Plan, which was a major factor in the rebuilding of Europe's postwar economy.

As the 1940s drew to a close, agricultural imbalances, labor unrest, and a growing pressure for industrial development forced the regime to begin to modify its autarchic policies. Spain's need for food, raw materials, energy, and credit made it necessary for the country to establish some link to the international economy. Spain achieved this goal when the United States decided to seek the political and strategic advantages of Spanish friendship in the face of an increasingly aggressive Soviet Union. With the infusion of American capital, Spain's economy revived, and living standards began to improve. There was a degree of economic liberalization, and industrial production increased significantly in the 1950s. Economic liberalization did not result in a relaxation of authoritarian control, however. The regime swiftly repressed workers' demonstrations in the spring of 1951 and student protests in 1956.

The regime's "families" did not agree unanimously on the new economic policies, and there were clashes between the progressive and the reactionary forces. The Falange resisted the opening of the regime to capitalistic influences, while the technocrats of the powerful Catholic pressure group, Opus Dei, de-emphasized the role of the syndicates and favored increased competition as a means of achieving rapid economic growth. The technocrats prevailed, and members of Opus Dei assumed significant posts in Franco's 1957 cabinet. Although Opus Dei did not explicitly support political liberalization, it aspired to economic integration with Europe, which meant that Spain would be exposed to democratic influences.

Measures proposed by these technocrats to curb inflation, to reduce government economic controls, and to bring Spanish economic policies and procedures in line with European standards were incorporated in the Stabilization Plan of 1959. The plan laid the basis for Spain's remarkable economic transformation in the 1960s. During that decade, Spain's industrial production and standard of living increased dramatically.

Rapid economic development had political and social consequences, however. Economic expansion resulted in a larger and better educated middle class than had ever existed in Spain, as well as in a new urban working class. Furthermore, the unprecedented degree of foreign cultural influence had a marked impact on Spanish society. All of these factors contributed to an increasing level of dissatisfaction with the restrictions that Franco had imposed. These restrictions were seen as impediments to further growth and modernization.

The technocrats had hoped that greater economic prosperity would eliminate hostility toward Francoism, but tension between an increasingly dynamic Spanish society and the oppressive regime that governed it resulted in growing domestic opposition throughout the 1960s. The expanding industrial labor force became increasingly militant. Workers organized clandestine commissions, and recurrent strikes and bombings were indications that Franco would not be able to maintain his repressive grip on the labor force indefinitely.

In addition, regional discontent was giving rise to escalating violent protests in the Basque region and in Catalonia. Agitation was also growing among university students who resented the strictures of Franco's regime. There was even opposition among the members of one of Franco's former bastions of support, the clergy. The younger liberal priests in the Catholic Church in Spain had responded with enthusiasm to the Second Vatican Council, which emphasized individual liberties and progressive social policies. The priests were also increasingly vocal in their attacks on the oppressive aspects of Francoism.

The unrest of the mid-1960s did not seriously threaten Spain's stability, however, and Franco--after twenty-five years in power--felt the regime was sufficiently secure and economically booming for a slight loosening of his authoritarian control. The Organic Law of the State, which had been approved by referendum in 1966, provided this modicum of liberalization while it solidified Franco's political system. The Law on Religious Freedom, approved in June 1967, eased restrictions on non-Catholics. In the same year, the regime modified censorship laws, and a considerably wider expression of opinion followed. In July 1969, Franco provided his regime with a greater degree of legitimacy and continuity by naming as his successor a legitimate heir to the throne, Prince Juan Carlos de Borbon.

The closing years of Franco's regime were marked by increasing violence and unrest. The anticipation of the dictator's demise and his increasing incapacity destabilized the country, and there was ongoing conflict between those who sought to liberalize the regime in order to secure its survival and those of the bunker mentality who resisted reforms. As a recession in the late 1960s overtook rapid economic expansion, labor agitation heightened. An unprecedented wave of strikes and increasing rebellion in the universities moved Franco to proclaim a state of exception throughout Spain in the early months of 1969. Freedom of expression and assembly were among the constitutional rights that were suspended, and Spain appeared to be returning to the repressive conditions of the 1940s. The revival of dictatorial policies had international repercussions and threatened negotiations with the United States for renewal of an agreement on United States military bases. Franco lifted the state of exception in March 1969, but the government's efforts to achieve legitimacy had been seriously undermined. The remaining years of Franco's rule saw periods of intensified opposition to which the government responded with harshly repressive measures that merely served to broaden and to inflame the resistance, leaving the regime in a state of constant turmoil.

The most virulent opposition to the Franco regime in the late 1960s and the early 1970s came from the revolutionary Basque nationalist group, Basque Fatherland and Freedom. This extremist group used terror tactics and assassinations to gain recognition of its demands for regional autonomy. The ETA's most daring act was the assassination in December 1973 of Luis Carrero Blanco, whom Franco had appointed as his first prime minister. Carrero Blanco had embodied hard-line Francoism, and he was seen as the one who would carry on the Caudillo's policies. His assassination precipitated the regime's most serious governmental crisis and interrupted the continuity that Franco had planned.

The tensions that had been mounting within the regime since the late 1960s would have made a continuation of Franco's system untenable even without Carrero Blanco's death. Conflicts between the reactionary elements of the regime and those who were willing to open the door to reform had plagued Carrero Blanco. These conflicts continued under his successor, Carlos Arias Navarro. In his first speech to the Cortes on February 12, 1974, the new prime minister promised liberalizing reforms, including the right to form political associations; however, diehard Francoists on the right, who equated any change with chaos, and radical reformers on the left, who were not content with anything less than a total break with the past, condemned Arias Navarro.

Both camps were dissatisfied with the political associations bill that eventually became law in December 1974. The law required that political participation be in accord with the principles of the National Movement and placed associations under its jurisdiction. The law offered no significant departure from Francoism. Would-be reformers saw it as a sham; reactionaries criticized it as the beginning of a limited political party system.

Opposition to the regime mounted on all sides in 1974 and 1975. Labor strikes, in which even actors participated, spread across the country. Universities were in a state of turmoil, as the popular clamor for democracy grew more strident. Terrorist activity reached such a level that the government placed the Basque region under martial law in April 1975. By the time of Franco's death on November 20, 1975, Spain was in a chronic state of crisis.

Franco's legacy had been an unprecedented era of peace and order, undergirded by his authoritarian grip on the country. While forced political stability enabled Spain to share in the remarkable period of economic development experienced by Europe in the 1960s, it suppressed, but did not eliminate, longstanding sources of conflict in Spanish society. The economic and social transformation that Spain experienced in the last decades of Francoist rule complicated these tensions, which were exacerbated as the regime drew to a close. At the time of Franco's death, change appeared inevitable. The form that the change would take and the extent to which it could be controlled were less certain.

Foreign Policy under Franco

The overriding need to strengthen the regime determined foreign policy in the first phase of Franco's rule. Weakened by the devastation of civil war, the country could not afford to become involved in a protracted European conflict. Although Franco was deeply indebted to Germany and to Italy for their decisive contribution to his victory over the Republicans, he declared Spain's neutrality in the opening days of World War II. His sympathies, nevertheless, were openly with the Axis powers; he had, in fact, already joined the Anti-Comintern Pact and had signed a secret treaty of friendship with Germany in March 1939. There was genuine enthusiasm for the fascist cause among important elements of the Franco regime, especially the Falange.

Spain altered its policy of neutrality following the lightning success of Germany's 1940 spring offensive. The German armies appeared invincible, and Franco was eager to assure Spain a voice in the postwar settlement. In June 1940, The Spanish government adopted a policy of nonbelligerency, which permitted German submarines to be provisioned in Spanish ports and German airplanes to use Spanish landing strips. This stance was widely interpreted as foreshadowing Spain's entry on the side of the Axis powers; the German Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, and Franco discussed this move on more than one occasion. The two dictators could never come to terms, however. The German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 presented Franco with a unique opportunity to participate in the conflict without a declaration of war and to get revenge for the Soviet Union's aid to the Republicans. Franco agreed to a Falangist request for the official formation of a Blue Division of volunteers--which reached a maximum strength of 18,000 men--to fight on the eastern front. Franco still believed that the Axis powers would win the war, and he considered the intervention of Spanish volunteers to be an inexpensive way of assuring recognition of Spain's colonial claims after the war was over.

The war turned in favor of the Allies with the entry of the United States in December 1941 and the Allied landing in Casablanca in November 1942. At that time, Spain replaced its pro-Axis policy with a genuinely neutral stance. Spain withdrew the Blue Division from the eastern front in November 1943, thus ending Franco's major collaboration with Nazi Germany. In May 1944, Spain and the Allies concluded an agreement. The Spanish government agreed to end wolfram shipments to Germany, to close the German consulate in Tangier, and to expel German espionage agents. In exchange for these actions, the Allies were to ship petroleum and other necessary supplies to Spain.

By the end of 1944, Spain had entered into a period of "benevolent neutrality" toward the Allies. Spain allowed Allied aircraft to land inside its borders and permitted Allied intelligence agents to operate in Madrid. In spite of this opportunistic policy shift, Spain was ostracized at the end of the war by the victorious powers. Although the United States president, Harry S. Truman, and the British prime minister, Winston Churchill, successfully resisted Stalin's proposals at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945 for Allied intervention against Franco, Spain was denied membership in the United Nations (UN) because its government had come to power with the assistance of the Axis powers and had collaborated with them during the war.

A resolution adopted by the second meeting of the UN General Assembly in December 1946 expressed the most severe postwar censure of the Franco regime. According to this resolution, Spain would be banned from the UN and would not be allowed to participate in any of its specialized agencies, as long as Franco remained in power. Franco did not appear seriously concerned by this censure, nor by the subsequent exclusion of Spain from the Marshall Plan. In fact, he used the international ostracism to strengthen his hold over the Spanish government. During this period of isolation, the Argentine government of Juan Peron (president, 1946-55) provided Spain with crucial economic support.

Franco was convinced that attacks on his regime were the work of communist forces, and he felt certain that the Western powers would someday recognize Spain's contribution in maintaining its solitary vigil against bolshevism. As events evolved, Spain's anticommunist stance proved to be a significant factor in the United States decision to revise its policy toward Spain in view of the Cold War.

As the United States became increasingly concerned with the Soviet threat following the fall of Czechoslovakia, the Berlin blockade in 1948, and the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, United States policy makers also began to recognize the strategic importance of the Iberian Peninsula; furthermore, they realized that ostracism had failed and that the Franco regime was stronger than ever. The United States government took steps to normalize its political and economic relations with Spain in the years 1948-50. In September 1950, President Truman signed a bill that appropriated US$62.5 million for aid to Spain. In the same year, the United States supported a UN resolution lifting the boycott on Franco's regime and resumed full diplomatic relations with Spain in 1951. As Spain became an increasingly important link in the overall defense system of the United States against the Soviet Union, the period of isolation came to an end.

Two major agreements signed in 1953 strengthened the Franco regime: the Concordat with the Vatican and the Pact of Madrid. The Concordat, signed in August 1953, was to replace the 1851 document that the republic had abrogated. The new agreement provided full church recognition of Franco's government. At the same time, it reaffirmed the confessional nature of the Spanish state; the public practice of other religions was not permitted. The agreement was more favorable to the Vatican than to Franco; it included measures that significantly increased the independence of the church within the Spanish system. The Concordat served, nevertheless, to legitimize the regime in the eyes of many Spaniards, and it was instrumental in strengthening Franco's hold over the country.

The Pact of Madrid, signed shortly after the Concordat, further symbolized the Spanish regime's rehabilitation. It also marked the end of Spanish neutrality. The Pact consisted of three separate, but interdependent, agreements between Spain and the United States. It provided for mutual defense, for military aid to Spain, and for the construction of bases there. The United States was to use these bases for a renewable ten-year period, but the bases remained under Spanish sovereignty. Although the pact did not constitute a full-fledged military alliance, it did commit the United States to support Spain's defense efforts; furthermore, it provided Spain with much-needed economic assistance. During the first ten years of the Pact of Madrid, the United States sent approximately US$1.5 billion in all kinds of aid to Spain.

Two years later, in 1955, the UN approved Spain's membership. In a visit by the United States president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, to the Spanish capital in 1959, the two generals received warm public welcomes as they toured the city together. The visit further emphasized Franco's acceptance and the end of Spain's ostracism. Franco placed a high value on Spain's relationship with the United States, for the prestige it conferred as well as for strategic reasons. This relationship continued to be a dominant factor in the development of the country's foreign policy.

Spain's European neighbors were less willing than the United States to modify their aversion to Franco's authoritarian rule. The West European members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) vetoed efforts to include Spain. Spain's applications for association with the European Community were also repeatedly rejected. Although a Trade Preference Treaty between Spain and the EC signed in 1970 seemed to herald a thaw in relations, Spain's entry into the EC, continued to be a political issue throughout Franco's lifetime. Spanish membership in the Community, considered by Spanish economists and businessmen as crucial for Spain's economic development, had to await the democratization of the regime.

A more intractable problem than Spain's entry into the EC was the fate of Gibraltar, a sore point in Anglo-Spanish relations since 1713, when Spain ceded the area to Britain under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht. The question of sovereignty, which had been dormant during the years of the Second Republic, revived in the 1960s and jeopardized otherwise friendly relations between Britain and Spain. Spain has never relinquished its claim to Gibraltar, while the British have maintained that the inhabitants of the area should determine Gibraltar's fate. The heterogeneous population of Gibraltar enjoyed local democratic self-government and an increasingly higher standard of living than that prevailing in Spain; therefore it was not a surprise when they voted almost unanimously in a referendum held in 1967 to remain under British rule. The UN repeatedly condemned the "colonial situation" and demanded--to no avail--its termination. In 1969 Spain took steps to seal off Gibraltar from the mainland and to accelerate the economic development program for the area surrounding it, known as Campo de Gibraltar. The situation continued in stalemate throughout the remainder of the Franco regime.

Franco may have been frustrated with the problem of Gibraltar, but he was optimistic about his potential for maintaining a powerful position for Spain in North Africa. As a former commanding officer of Spanish colonial garrisons in Morocco, Franco had developed close ties to the area, and during the postwar period, he placed great emphasis on maintaining Spain's position in the Arab world. Appealing to historical, cultural, and political ties, Franco endeavored to act as self- appointed protector of Arab interests and to portray Spain as an essential bridge, or mediator, between Europe and the Arab countries.

Despite the regime's position as a colonial power in northwest Africa, relations between Spain and the Arab countries became closer in the late 1940s, in part because of Spain's nonrecognition of Israel. A visit by Spain's foreign minister to the Middle East resulted in a variety of economic and cultural agreements, and the Arab states assumed a benevolent attitude toward Spain's position in Morocco. Nevertheless, France's decision to withdraw from Morocco in early 1956, following the successful struggle waged by Moroccan nationalists against French control, left little prospect of Spain's retaining its zone. (In the spring of the same year, France relinquishied the protectorate.)

In the following decades, Spain's position in North Africa eroded further. A long series of conflicts with Morocco resulted in the abandonment of much of Spain's colonial territory in the 1960s. When Morocco's Mohammed V made it clear in 1958 that he had designs on the Spanish Sahara, Spain opposed any change of status for the area. In 1975, however, Spain reversed its policy and declared its readiness to grant full independence to the Spanish Sahara under UN supervision. Following the march of 300,000 unarmed Moroccans into the territory in November 1975, Spain agreed to cede the Spanish Sahara to Morocco and Mauritania. At the time of Franco's death, Spain's only remaining presence in North Africa consisted of the Spanish-inhabited enclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla and the small garrison spot called Penon de Velez de la Gomera, all on Morocco's Mediterranean coast.

Spain History Contents

SOURCE: Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress