196. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Death of Spanish President Carrero Blanco

I. The Incident

On the morning of December 20, 1973, Spanish President (Prime Minister) Luis Carrero Blanco was killed when the automobile in which he was riding was demolished by an explosion. An investigation by Spanish officials has disclosed that an underground tunnel had been excavated from the basement of a house beneath a Madrid street regularly travelled by the President en route to and from mass, and that a powerful explosive device had been detonated as the President’s car passed above.

The Basque Separatist Organization ETA has claimed responsibility for the bomb blast stating in a communiqué to a French newspaper that it had killed Carrero Blanco for three reasons:

—To aid in fighting repression in Spain;

—To revenge the death of nine Basque militants at the hands of the Spanish Government;

—And to eliminate the key, tough figure in that Government.

Carrero Blanco’s death also coincided with the scheduled opening date of the trial in Madrid of the “Carabanchel Ten”. Most of the ten defendants are prominent members of, or have close association with, the illegal Spanish Communist Party. All of them—including a Roman [Typeset Page 633] Catholic priest—are associated with the clandestine Communist-dominated Workers’ Commission which is also banned in Spain.

The “Carabanchel Ten” have been charged with illicit association with and leadership of an illegal group. The regime’s request for unusually stiff penalties ranging from 12 to 20 years has aroused strong anti-government sentiment. Demonstrations had been expected in connection with the trial, however, there is no information yet specifically linking the killing to the trial.

II. Impact of the Death on Spanish Politics

Carrero Blanco’s death this morning eliminates one-half of the dual succession that Franco had arranged to replace him. Carrero was to carry on as the head of government and Prince Juan Carlos, appointed king-designate in 1969, is slated to become chief of state after Franco dies or becomes incapacitated.

As provided for by the Spanish Constitution, Carrero Blanco has been replaced temporarily by Vice Premier Fernandez Miranda. The law requires Franco to appoint a new premier within ten days from three candidates proposed by the Counsel of the Realm, an advisory body composed of Spanish dignitaries from various walks of life.

In practice, Franco’s wishes undoubtedly are incorporated into the choices the Council of the Realm makes. If they were not, he probably would ignore the legal procedures and simply appoint his own man. Fernandez Miranda will automatically be considered a likely replacement of Carrero. His conservative credentials and political philosophy make him a “safe” candidate and his elevation last June to deputy premier is a solid indication that he is in Franco’s favor.

If today’s incident develops into widespread terrorist activity, Franco might be inclined to turn to the military for the next premier. Under these circumstances, General Diaz-Alegria, current chief of staff, would be a likely candidate. He is a favorite among the military and he is notable for his pan-European outlook. However, he is reputed to favor gradual movement towards a freer society after Franco’s departure, a factor that might make him too moderate in Franco’s judgment.

It is also possible that Franco may be so shaken by the death of his most trusted colleague that he might consider resuming the role of premier that he turned over to Carrero last June. Carrero had been running the day-to-day business of the government since 1967, but Franco’s decision to give up some of his power was notable because it marked the first time he had released any authority since he assumed control of Spain in 1936. Franco will have difficulty finding someone else in whom he can place that much confidence.

  1. Summary: Kissinger sent Nixon a report on the death of Carrero Blancoand analyzed its repercussions for Spain.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 706, Country Files, Europe, Spain, Vol. IV, January 1972–(June 1974) (1 of 2). Secret. Sent for information. Scowcroft initialed the memorandum on Kissinger’s behalf. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.