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Not just the Spanish army, but also its air force. If democratic eyebrows were raised in recent days by the far-right political discourse presented in a letter by 73 retired army officers to Spanish king Felipe VI, new disquieting revelations have now shown that the sabre-rattling is just as loud among former senior members of the Spanish air force.      

A WhatsApp group called La XIX del Aire - "The Air Force Class of Year 19", formed by now-retired air commanders who graduated together from Spain's Air Force Academy in the 1960s, also sent its own missive to Felipe VI expressing concern about the relationships between the current PSOE-Podemos government of Spain and parties "whose objective is the separation of a part of the territory of our fatherland".

"Repeating history is the only solution"

The signatory of this letter on behalf of some of his military colleagues was a general of Spain's Air Force reserve, Francisco Beca Casanova, who, according to the digital newspaper Infolibre, is one of the most active participants in the WhatsApp group. Among the messages of dubious democratic pedigree attributed to Beca are a reference to the military revolt that started the Spanish Civil War as "the manoeuvres of '36", and an exclamation that more half the Spanish population should be shot: "I think shooting 26 million would still not be enough!!!!!!!!" he wrote.

"The 'manoeuvres of '36' provided a few years of progress although some people had a bad time. Spain is full of ungovernable people and the only possible way is to make people more cultured, which is impossible with the left. Sad, but it's the Spanish reality," wrote Beca, according to Infolibre. In a third comment, the air force general in the reserve gave the view that "Spanish society is divided, and today the good are more cowardly than the bad. All that remains (unfortunately) is to repeat history."

Live bombs against Catalan independence group

An ex-member of the air force WhatsApp group has also told Spanish media that the group discussed staging a coup d'etat, and there was even talk of using military exercises to bombard the headquarters of pro-independence group the Catalan National Assembly (ANC).

Former member of the chat, retired lieutenant colonel José Ignacio Domínguez, told the Cadena SER radio network that in the group "there was talk of a coup" against the democratic government of Spain. And although everything was left in the terrain of "daydreams", the former officer asserted that "there was and is a movement" to carry out a coup and because of that there were attempts to convince other year-groups of the Spanish army and air force. "These people are not monarchists or constitutionalists, they are Francoists and they defend the dictatorship and not only for the past, but for the future. They aspire to have a dictatorship," the ex-military officer added.

Another of the ideas circulating in the text chat was the possibility of organizing military operations against the civilian population, and in particular, Domínguez noted that, in a message whose authorship is unknown, a member of the chat said that, if he were in active service he would take advantage of a "hot flight" - that is, a military exercise employing real bombs and missiles that would normally take place on a Spanish military firing range in Navarra - "to change the route and bomb the Catalan National Assembly".

"An appendix of Vox"

According to Domínguez's statements on SER, the reason for creating the chat group was to foster friendship and contact between former colleagues, but over time it became an "appendix of Vox" where any comments against the far-right party were criticized harshly. The former member of the group says the beginning of the radicalization occirred in March 2020, when discussion began on an 'Operation Albatross' to create a government of national salvation, with Margarita Robles, current Minister of Defence, to be installed as president of the Spanish government.

In addition, one of the targets of the 'Class of Year 19' group was general José Julio Rodríguez Fernández, former Spanish military chief of staff and currently with connections to the Podemos party, who graduated two years after the Year 19 class. “They called him a son of a b*tch, a traitor and a coward,” Dominguez notes.

The former member of the WhatApp group points out that there are now very few members left in the chat, but that among those who took part there were always Francoists who had been "nostalgic within an order", but recently became radicalized to the point of "considering the possibility of a military pronouncement endorsed by the king", which did not materialize.

In addition, he points out that many of the ex-military are people who "entered the army in the middle of the dictatorship," and who continue with "the story of the victors" of the Civil War. "All those involved, lieutenant colonels, lieutenants and some generals trained with the idea that Franco was someone to follow. Especially among the retired members, but also many who are still active were taught to admire the figure of Franco," he said, pointing out, however, that "regeneration has taken effect" and has attenuated these attitudes.