Funeral of Spain’s most beloved PM draws 30,000 to the Streets
Around 30,000 flocked to Madrid Parliament lower house yesterday to bid goodbye to Spain’s democratic hero and former Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez. He passed away due to complications from pneumonia on Sunday at age 81. He had also suffered Alzheimer’s disease for the past decade.
His passing has created a temporary truce among political opponents and has sent the country in mourning. Mourners waited in the rain early this week in a five kilometre long queue to see Suarez’s flag-draped coffin. President of the Parliament Jesus Posada remarked ‘What people want are people like Adolfo Suarez, who work for Spain.’
Suarez was the first prime minister to be elected after the death of 40-year dictator Francisco Franco in 1975. With the help of King Carlos of Spain, Suarez steered the transition period that dismantled the dictatorship and instituted democracy in Spain.
At a time when Spaniards are disillusioned with their leaders, Suarez’s contributions to Spain’s political scene are being remembered. Here are six reasons why Spaniards hold Suarez in high regard:
1. Mediator. During the transition period, Suarez oversaw the legitimisation of all parties, including the communists, and reinstated Catalan as an autonomous region.
2. Refused compensation. Suarez refused financial aid to cover the costs of medication for his wife and daughter who suffered breast cancer. Instead, he auctioned off his home in Avila and used his earnings from his law firm.
3. He resigned. After two years of being re-elected in office, Suarez resigned in 1981, stating ‘My resignation is beneficial to Spain.’ This comes in contrast to today’s politicians who refuse to resign even after being hounded by scandals.
4. Charismatic. Suarez refused TV appearances in the Parliament and choose to address the nation from his living room. Despite the unconventional setting, experts argued he remained telegenic on screen.
5. ‘Balls of steel.’ During the 23-F coup of 1981, Suarez did not flinch as gunshots were fired by ring leader Antonio Tejero. He instead demanded ‘Explain what this madness is’ and ‘I order you to stop before a tragedy occurs.’ After an 18-hour hostage crisis, the cabinet and Parliament were left unscathed.
6. He ended ‘la mili.’ Suarez called to end Spain’s conscription system or ‘la mili,’ calling it ‘A waste of time,’ arguing it interrupted studies and delayed the entry of people into the workforce.
The state funeral for Suarez will be held on 31 March at Madrid’s Almudena Cathedral.