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Spanish king Felipe VI has this Friday received a military audience by a group of officers from the armed forces and Civil Guard commemorating the fortieth anniversary of their completion of studies at the various Spanish military academies. Among them was the ex-chief of the Defence General Staff (JEMAD), Fernando Alejandre, known for having been the ideologist of a military plan to act in Catalonia in the event that independence had been consummated after the referendum of 1st October, 2017.

From March 2017 until January 2020, Alejandre stood at the top of the Spanish military leadership, and thus led the state's armed forces during the months that were crucial before the referendum was held and also during the subsequent period of repression, firstly under direct rule from Madrid with the enactment of Article 155, and through ongoing lawfare and espionage. The former chief of staff is a controversial figure due to the revelations he made in a memoir, published this year, under the title Rey servido y patria honrada - that is, "King Served and Fatherland Honoured".

In the book, Alejandre recalls many details of his time in the Spanish armed forces, including his relationships with politicians and colleagues in the military hierarchy. But the most surprising thing about the book is the information about the military plan he designed to quell the revolt in Catalonia. The plan for armed intervention had been agreed with the then minister of defence, María Dolores de Cospedal. The intention was to respond to the independence movement in the event that the Catalans' vote on thier future in 2017 ended with independence being applied in practice, which never happened.

Spanish government says it knew nothing of military plan

In a parliamentary response to the Basque MP Jon Iñarritu, the Spanish government under Pedro Sánchez has stated this week that it was unaware of the existence of this plan which the army allegedly prepared to stop the pro-independence process by force. The Sánchez executive, in addition to admitting that it knew nothing about the plan, said that it seemed "very grave" if it existed.

Alejandre says in the book that the orders were active for eight seconds, which was precisely the time that the Unilateral Declaration of Independence lasted on October 10th, 2017, to then be placed on pause by president Carles Puigdemont to permit negotiation. Since the independence of Catalonia did never went beyond those eight seconds, the military plan was not deployed. Spain had sufficient through the activation of Article 155 so that the machinery of Catalan government was operated from Madrid.

General Alejandre was dismissed as chief of defence staff with the arrival of the current defence minister, Margarita Robles, in January 2020. He himself says that the termination was abrupt, occurring while he was participating in a NATO meeting in Brussels and after various discrepancies with Robles and her entire ministerial team.