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INTEL

"THE FIRST SPANISH ASTRONAUT"

Luis Carrero Blanco was the prime minister of Spain and handpicked heir to Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. On December 20, 1973, Blanco headed home following Sunday mass in his chauffeured Dodge 3700 GT. As the car progressed down Calle Claudio Coello, two men watched from a safe distance. When the car passed a certain building—104 Claudio Coello—one of the men (codenamed “Kiskur”) signaled to his partner (“Argala”), who stood at a distance on a ladder, dressed as an electrician.

At that precise moment, Argala pressed the detonator.

Luis Carrero Blanco, the first Spanish astronaut, takes flight.

Blanco’s car launched higher than 100 feet into the air. It cleared the roof of a five-story building and landed on a balcony on the building’s back side. The incredible flight earned Carrero Blanco the sarcastic nickname “the first Spanish astronaut.” Carrero Blanco, his bodyguard, and his chauffeur all quickly died from their injuries.

Back down on the street, Kiskur and Argala navigated the post-blast chaos and met with their getaway driver, “Atxulo.” The trio went into hiding, aided by their comrades in the Basque Homeland and Country group (ETA).

The trajectory of Luis Carrero Blanco's Dodge 3700 GT after it launched 100-plus feet into the air.

Operation Ogre was a multifaceted success. First, the ETA neutralized its target. Second, the explosion was captured on film; the spectacular image of Blanco’s car riding the crest of the explosion became a media sensation, ultimately etching a place into the cultural consciousness of Spain. Finally, and most importantly, Carrero’s flirtation with the heavens was a catalyst for Spain’s transition from a far-right dictatorship to democracy.*

Children look at Luis Carrero's Blanco destroyed Dodge 3700 GT on display at the Army Museum in Spain.

The destroyed Dodge 3700 GT in which Luis Carrero Blanco was assassinated, on display.

Following Blanco’s death, the mangled frame of his Dodge 3700 GT went on display at the Army Museum, which at the time was located in Madrid (now in Toledo). The Spanish government hoped the destroyed auto would frighten citizens against antifascist action, but the Spanish people had endured 34 years of ultraviolence and repression via Franco’s limpieza social.

Like the Apollo 11 spacecraft four years before, the airborne Dodge became a symbol of possibility.

* Source: “How an Assassination Helped Turn Dictatorship Into Democracy.”

Notes

  1. "El Pais” went into a bit more detail about the ETA operatives in this article.
  2. “Escuderia” published a nice piece on the significance of Carrero’s Dodge.