206. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary, Henry A. Kissinger
  • Manuel De Prado
  • Mr. Hartman, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs—Notetaker

(The Secretary met for about two minutes with De Prado alone.)

De Prado: As I was saying the Prince, Juan Carlos, had the idea of sending me to you with a message that he wished to establish a private channel and also to take up a number of questions and get your advice. First, I should explain to you that I am not an official. I am a private friend of the Prince, whom I have known for 18 years. I have been working with him on a confidential basis since before the time he was named Prince. I have been introducing him to businessmen, bankers [Typeset Page 660] and people with foreign experience. I myself am a businessman and a banker. I represent the Societe Generale which is one of the principal French banks (He said French—not Belgian). I am also a director of the Ford operation in Spain which has invested recently a billion dollars in an automobile production facility. I also am on the board of the Swedish Company Erikson and also Mitsubishi. As you can see, I am not in politics. My loyalty is only to the Prince. Now let me explain the situation as the Prince asked me to convey it to you. He has felt that there were only four solutions to his accession to power. The first, if Franco dies . . .

The Secretary: If or when?

De Prado: I have been on the telephone with the Prince this morning, and he says that all the medical evidence shows that he is dying. The problem is that with these modern techniques that they can keep a person living long beyond the point when he would ordinarily die. No one wants to take the decision to turn the machines off. The Prince was not interested in the article III procedure which was used last year because he felt it was not acceptable that he should temporarily take power with the possibility that it could be withdrawn. But this time he felt he had no right to refuse when the government asked him to take over because then he could be criticized of acting unconstitutionally because he had refused to take over when Franco was clearly incapacitated. Thus when he was convinced by the doctors that no recovery was possible, he accepted to be named as acting head of state. Now, however, this presents a difficulty on how he can manage when he cannot take decisions by himself.

The Secretary: Could Franco stay alive another month?

De Prado: I don’t think so. The best advice is one or two weeks. But even supposing that he might recover in some way, the Prince assumes that he would at that point sign over full power.

The Secretary: I agree that being only a caretaker presents difficulties.

De Prado: He tries to show that he has power. That is why he flew to the Sahara and that is why he called the first meeting of ministers, not in Franco’s palace—the Pardo—but instead at his own house. As I was saying if Franco dies, the transition is easy. The constitution says that during the eight days following his death the Prince should be sworn in before the Cortes. In fact, it has been decided that he should be sworn in after a three-day mourning period and that the funeral should be held the next day. Then seven days later there will be a religious ceremony—a Te Deum—to which top people from all over the world will be invited and this will be the equivalent of a formal taking of office by the Prince.

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The Secretary: Then we would be expected to send a representative to the funeral and then one week later send someone else to the formal installation of the Prince?

De Prado: I have also been on instruction from the Prince in direct contact with the French President, Giscard D’Estaing and I have a direct personal contact in his office through Pierre Brosselette. I spent one hour with Giscard. The Prince has told me and he told me to say this to Giscard that he wants the French President’s advice and your advice which he values very highly.

The Secretary: I agree that Giscard is extremely intelligent and sound.

De Prado: Giscard expects to send his foreign minister to the funeral only.

The Secretary: But let me get this straight.

De Prado: The Prince will be sworn in before the Cortes the day before the funeral. The Te Deum will be celebrated seven days after the funeral. Giscard says that he will send his foreign minister to the funeral and that his prime minister Chirac will come to the Te Deum. The Prince asked me to ask Giscard if he could come and he said he would think about it and see what others wish to do.

The Prince went to the Sahara yesterday. It is not his intention to get into a fight about the Sahara. He does not want this. He wants a negotiation with Morocco because he feels that the matter can be settled with King Hassan. The Prince feels that the government and particularly the foreign minister were wrong and were giving entirely too much attention to the views of Algeria. But the Prince has a problem. The army is very sensitive and they feel that the government may forget them. They see the government talking more about the feelings of Algeria and Morocco and they wonder whether the government there was thinking about how to save face for the army. The Prince has decided we must leave the Sahara but he wishes to give moral support to the army and he wishes to get out in peace. He does not wish it to appear that the army—and there are 1500 of them in the Sahara—has been forgotten. You should also remember that this is a selected group from the army made up of foreign legionaires. When the Prince came back he immediately called together the National Defense Council and he was called on the telephone by King Hassan. Hassan said that he was sending his prime minister to Madrid today. What the Prince wants to do is to fix the last day on which Spain will withdraw from the Sahara and he wants to fix that day as December 15 of this year. What he wants is for Hassan to accept this decision on the part of Spain to get out. But what he will have to do in return is to stop the march. If they go into the Sahara, it will leave the Prince in a terrible position with the army. Thus, the problem is how to negotiate this arrangement with Hassan. [Typeset Page 662] Giscard told me that even if something could be negotiated with Hassan, the Algerians would still present a problem but it is not 100 percent sure that the Algerians will fight.

The Secretary: Have we asked for the intelligence estimate that I requested this morning?

Hartman: Yes, Bill Hyland has already talked to the Agency about this and we will have an estimate of Algerian intentions and also what the force situation is.

The Secretary: I think we must meet again and I will give you our judgment on this. Do you have a secure means of communicating with the Prince?

De Prado: No, he doesn’t have any telecommunications right yet so we talk on the telephone and we have known each other long enough so that we can talk in a kind of code.

The Secretary: Cortina tells us that the Sahara problem has run into difficulties.

De Prado: Yes, but the Prince refuses to cooperate with him because he feels that Cortina was the one responsible for the wrong turn that this whole matter took. Cortina is not a man who acts. He thinks in entirely too legalistic a way. There is nothing between them. The Prince wants to negotiate a solution, if he can find a reason to intervene. Otherwise, it is difficult for him to stop Cortina at the present time. If something should happen in the Sahara, he could not stop the army from reacting. But he feels that if a day can be fixed for Spanish withdrawal, that would give the Prince three or four weeks time to work out a solution and we save face.

The Secretary: I have a feeling that this is leading toward a conflict.

De Prado: The Prince feels that maybe he could negotiate some bases around Agadir, something to help Hassan. But if the Algerians want to fight . . .

The Secretary: There are two possibilities for us. Either we can wash our hands of the whole matter or we can do something to help move it along rapidly. I think myself that the best solution is if you could work out a rapid agreement perhaps with the Moroccans agreeing to demarcate their border with Algeria. The difficulty is that when the Arabs meet together, they will talk themselves into a crisis. But the Prince is right, something must be done to get Hassan to call off the march, or perhaps just allow it to go just a short distance into the Sahara but can he act?

De Prado: He can sign an agreement at this period but he cannot stop the army.

The Secretary: My instinct is that he ought to move to do what he can to get a settlement with Morocco as fast as possible.

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De Prado: That is one reason why the Moroccan prime minister has been invited to Madrid.

Let me go back again. If Franco dies, there is going to be some difficulty for the Prince and how he puts into effect his ideas. It will be a little bit like Pompidou after De Gaulle.

The Secretary: Let me go back to the arrangements once again. We were thinking of sending the Vice President to the funeral and we have not thought of the possibility of a sort of coronation party afterward. Our President will probably be traveling in Asia at the later time, but we could always reduce our presence at the funeral or we could send the Vice President two times.

De Prado: Of course, if the President is on a trip, everyone would understand but what about you?

The Secretary: If the President is on a trip, I will be with him.

De Prado: You could reduce your representation at the funeral but on the other hand, your President when he was Vice President attended the funeral of our Prime Minister Carrero Blanco and therefore I think it would have to be the Vice President who goes to the funeral and then you should send him again if for some reason the President cannot attend the Te Deum 7 days later.

The Secretary: Let’s see. We will have to see what the schedule is.

De Prado: I think it will be before your President’s trip. In any case, I will try to get the real situation to you. Now going back to the procedures—when Franco dies, there will be a regency council that will take power and then within 8 days but as currently planned, after 3 days the Prince will be sworn in. He accepts the fact that there will not be important people from Europe at his swearing in and at the funeral.

The Secretary: The funeral will be four days after he dies and the Prince will be sworn in on the third day. As I understand you, the formal installation of Juan Carlos will be seven days after the funeral. If the President is in Europe at that time, as he may be for the summit meeting, it would be easy for him to go.

De Prado: If there is a possibility that the President could come, we might even reduce the number of days between the funeral and the Te Deum in order to accommodate him.

The Secretary: I am in favor of the President going to the Te Deum but I cannot tell you today if it will be possible, but I can assure you that we will have the highest possible representation, perhaps the Chief Justice along with the Vice President. I assume if you do that, this is not for the purpose of having discussions but that this delegation will go as a symbolic act. I want you to assure the Prince that we will do all that we can to strengthen him.

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De Prado: That is most important and that is really the main object I have in coming here.

The Secretary: You can count on it. As you may know, I have the highest personal regard for the Prince. He represents the only institutional guarantee that there will be stability and progress.

De Prado: It is the only solution. If he fails, we could go in the way Portugal has gone.

The Secretary: You can count on us and I would like to discuss with you what we can do to be helpful. I am open-minded on what help we can give.

De Prado: This brings me to my next point. We have direct information that there will be a move in Portugal in the next two weeks.

The Secretary: From the right or the left?

De Prado: From the right. We understand that they intend to do something. The Prince does not want Portugal to go over to the Communists.

The Secretary: What does he think should be done?

De Prado: He believes that we have to do something but he recognizes that there could be a bad reaction. He feels that if something is going to happen, it is better that it happen now and not when he is King.

The Secretary: But when he is King he will have some executive power?

De Prado: Now the government is still made up of Franco people but the Prince believes that something could happen in the next two weeks.

The Secretary: My instinct is that there is no substitute for victory. No one will reward you for exercising moderation, but have you put this to Giscard? What did he say?

De Prado: Giscard felt that Portugal might be on its way to solving its problems. [1 line not declassified] The Prince feels that Portugal could be finished if the Communists make any further gains.

The Secretary: (To Hartman) I want an assessment of what the situation is in Portugal and how likely the present group is to succeed.

We do have to know what the plans are [4½ lines not declassified]

De Prado: [2 lines not declassified] They could get in touch through me. The Prince feels that with our 900 kilometer border, there are many risks if the Communists succeed in Portugal.

The Secretary: If the plan can succeed, we would look at it sympathetically.

De Prado: [2 lines not declassified] They are thinking of using Spinola as their leader.

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The Secretary: This presents a very tough problem. I frankly think it can work.

De Prado: If not Spinola, they say it would be easy to find someone else.

The Secretary: I am going to send someone over to get the facts.

De Prado: To go back to the problem of transition, if Franco dies, the Prince will have difficulty getting his ideas across. He has to handle the situation very carefully because of the continued presence of strong Franco people. He will talk a little about democracy but open doors only a little. He will not be in favor and will accept legalization of the Communist party. He wants his first government to integrate political opinion but he does not wish it to move too far to the left. One of the men that he has been thinking about as his first prime minister is the Count de Motrico. He does not feel that Arias is strong enough. He changes his opinion every half hour and is controlled by his internal and press ministers. The Prince does not feel that he would be loyal. Also, he was involved in this terrorist execution business. Therefore, the Prince prefers to make a change. But Arias does not have to present his resignation. He has the choice. He could, if he wished, stay on to the end of his term which is four years more. But the Prince is determined to push him to resign. The question is who should succeed him. There is a possibility of Fraga, who is now our Ambassador in London. The difficulty here is that the Prince does not believe he would make a well-balanced prime minister. He acts too much according to his feelings and he gets excited. The Prince needs someone who is cold and loyal. He thought also of Lopez Rodo but that presents a problem because he is a member of the Opus Dei and people would take him for being in their control. I am not sure that would be a problem but it might look as though they would bring in only their team.

The Secretary: I know him and like him very much.

De Prado: Then there is also Lopez Bravo. But he had some unfortunate financial dealings and that probably would disqualify him because people remember that. This brings us back to Count de Motrico, who was as you will remember, Ambassador in Washington. But the Prince feels it is perhaps too early to have someone like that who has a political background. The Prince has the idea that what we need now is a cold, technocratic coordinator; someone who will take care of the economic side and build confidence and for this reason he is thinking seriously of Lopez de Letona, who was the industry minister. He has a very good image in Europe. He is not political and would be seen to be working for the country. He is serious and quiet. The Prince asked me to mention this to you and to see if you had any advice. I also talked to Giscard and he said that with an election coming up in France in 1978, there would be a terrible problem if both Spain and Portugal were [Typeset Page 666] going in a bad direction. This would have a serious effect in France. That is why it is so important that Spain consolidate its position under the Prince. Giscard feels that most of the opposition will accept to allow the Prince six months so that he can get himself organized. After that there will be moves by the opposition and you could even have demonstrations with 100,000 people in the streets. Giscard’s advice is that the only way to stop these developments is to keep in close contact with the army. He feels that the powers can be consolidated by the King if he calls for a referendum on whether Spain should continue to be governed by a King. This would give him time because he could announce the possibility of a referendum for some time in the future. Of course, there are risks. This would not be 100 percent sure. The risk is if the vote fails but Giscard seems to feel that if it takes place in the first three months, it will give the best chance for the population to give their full support to the King and that he will have the support. It also might help with another problem and that is Juan Carlos’ father, who will not renounce his claims to the throne. He could create difficulties but a referendum would according to Giscard help confirm the plans. Another risk is that there could be another referendum five years from now and the results could go the other way. The Prince asked me to get your advice on this matter.

The Secretary: Let me think about this over night.

De Prado: Then there are the problems of the Basques and the Catalans. [1 line not declassified] They say that they will support him 100 percent on three conditions. First, that they should recover their historical symbolic rights. The Prince thinks that can be done. Second, that national Basque leaders in jail—but not terrorists—should be given an amnesty by the King. The Prince feels that this is possible but he will have to be careful. Third, that the terrorists should be tried by civil courts and not by the military. This the Prince has agreed to think about. He plans to make a surprise first trip to the Basque area as a sign that he understands their problem.

The Secretary: But why should the Basque support him if they want independence?

De Prado: They accept the Prince because they do not have to have 100 percent independence. What they want is integration in a federal-type system which enables them to recover some of their former historical rights. With respect to the Catalans, and here I am not too concerned, those who wish independence are a small group. The “liberals” have promised their full support to the Prince. They may have a problem in the future but for the moment they gave their support.

Now let me turn to the army. There is a movement in the army which wants to see progress toward political progress but of this group 80 percent accept the Prince and want him to succeed. At the same time [Typeset Page 667] they do not wish to see Spain stay as it is but they want it to move toward a “kind of democracy”. I do not think that this is a very big problem. One of the reasons the Prince went to the Sahara was in order to assure that he would get the full support of the army and I think this was a good idea. Another thing the Prince wishes to do is to change Ambassadors here in Washington the day he gets power. He wants to send the very best and someone who will be able to communicate with us.

The Secretary: That is what we want. We would like to have someone who has his confidence. What about our Ambassador?

De Prado: The Prince has nothing against the US Ambassador. He wishes only to know whether or not he has your full confidence. When I have finished my missions, I will no longer be the channel. He will wish to communicate with you through your Ambassador.

The Secretary: But does he have that confidence from his side now in our Ambassador?

De Prado: He has no big problem but he is worried due to certain interconnected things. For example, there seems to be an effort to make more contact with the left. There is a labor attaché, for example, a man by the name of Winn, who is not connected with the labor unions. I know this because I am the head of the Federal Metal Laborers Association and I know he has had meetings with left wing groups.

Hartman: I am sure the embassy has contact with these people but that is not in any way intended to indicate our support.

De Prado: I want to assure you that the Prince has nothing against your Ambassador, but he wants to be sure that he has your confidence so that he can be sure he is talking directly to you.

The Secretary: I sent Stabler to Madrid in this transition period because I had full confidence in him and the work he had done for me here. What is the Prince’s problem. Has Stabler said something?

De Prado: I am not sure that the Prince feels he has your confidence and it is not clear to us if he works with the opposition, whether he is doing this because you wish him to. It is only a feeling we have but if you have confidence in him, we will work closely with him.

The Secretary: I am going to get Stabler back here. He did good work for me in the Department and I have confidence in him but I will have another talk with him and if he does not carry out what I tell you, you must let me know. Stabler is too important at this juncture for us to get involved in political science experiments. The Spanish situation is very important and we cannot afford mistakes.

De Prado: The Prince wants you to know that he will only talk a little about democracy but he will allow some openings.

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The Secretary: My biggest worry—and I will be very frank with you—was that the Prince might have become too seduced by the liberals. I know that he must make some progress in liberalizing the regime in order to have good relations with Europe but he cannot open up the situation to the point that all these forces might erupt. The worst mistake we made in the 60’s was when we encouraged an opening to the left in Italy which guaranteed that the Christian Democrats would sooner or later be undermined. I can assure you that there will be no pressure from us on making arrangements with Communists, even with socialists. Frankly, I do not know the situation in Spain well enough but I do know that the Prince needs a base from which to work and that he has to find friends to work with.

I have to go to NATO in mid-December. I had been thinking of taking a trip to the Hague but perhaps I should go to Spain instead.

De Prado: That would be most important.

The Secretary: Would one day be enough?

De Prado: One day would be fine and I believe it absolutely necessary that you come.

The Secretary: I might leave London on the evening of the 14th and spend the whole day of Monday the 15th in Madrid.

De Prado: We would arrange that that day was well spent. The Prince has great confidence in you.

The Secretary: I am glad to hear the direction he wants to move in. I am impressed by what you tell me. Frankly, I had feared he might be too adventuresome.

De Prado: The Prince wants to allow some political parties or associates and says that he would declare that it be in more than three such channels—the conservative, the Christian Democrats or Social Democrats and the other liberal. But he would not begin right away and instead he would move very slowly.

The Secretary: What about the role of the church?

De Prado: I think that the church has changed remarkably in the last four weeks and that they now support the Prince. You know that for a long time the Pope himself was against Spain and Franco—he lost a brother in the war—but even as far as the terrorist question is concerned, it seems that the Pope is now much more in favor of supporting the Prince in the aftermath of the Franco period.

The Secretary: I would like to meet again tomorrow at 11:00. How should we communicate? Hartman here can get in touch with you.

De Prado: I have an arrangement with the French President that I contact him through Brosselette.

The Secretary: Well, I will tell you tomorrow how we will communicate because I find that it is very difficult to keep a secret in this [Typeset Page 669] building. Perhaps with all the telephoning it would be better not to do it downstairs (in Hartman’s office) but instead to have the contact through General Scowcroft. But I will tell you tomorrow.

  1. Summary: Kissinger and De Prado discussed Spain during the transition.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Entry 5403, Box 23, Classified External Memcons. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the Secretary’s Office.