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MILITARY

Spanish hero named honorary US citizen

More than two centuries after his death, Spanish military leader and politician Bernardo de Gálvez (1746—1786) has been made an honorary citizen of the United States for his efforts in fighting for American independence.

Spanish hero named honorary US citizen
Spanish military leader Bernardo de Gálvez gave his name to the Texan city of Galveston. GifTagger / Wikimedia

The United States Congress and Senate approved the motion recently and on Tuesday December 9th a painting of Gálvez, who gave his name to the Texan city of Galveston, was hung in the Capitol in recognition of his labour.

The legislative text which sought to bestow Gálvez this posthumous honour was sponsored by two Republican Congressmen, Representative Jeff Miller (Florida) and Senator Marco Rubio (Florida), who said that Gálvez "was a hero of the American War of Independence for risking his life for the freedom of the American people".

The Spanish military hero "played an integral role in the American War of Independence and helped secure the independence of the United States of America", according to the text, cited by Spanish news site Libertad Digital.

The military leader, who served as Colonial governor of Louisiana and later Viceroy of New Spain (which included parts of Florida) aided the American Thirteen Colonies and led Spanish forces against Britain, defeating Britain in the Siege of Pensacola (1781) in which he also reclaimed Florida for Spain.

Spanish Ambassador to the United States, Ramón Gil-Casares, told reporters that granting a Spanish military figure such an honourary title was "absolutely exceptional" because there has only ever been "six previous cases" in the United States.

"This country would have gained its independence 20 years later if it had not been for Bernardo de Gálvez", said the Spanish Ambassador, who praised that “Spain’s contribution to the American War of Independence was being acknowledged”.

The legislation only lacks one thing: the signature of President Barack Obama, who will see no reason to say no, according to Ambassaor Gil-Casares.

To highlight the important role of this Spanish figure in North American history, the Spanish Embassy is planning to organize, among other initiatives "a huge exhibition" and in 2016 a conference on "the Spanish presence in the independence of the United States with Bernardo de Gálvez at the head".

After learning of the honour to be bestowed on Gálvez, the Hispanic Council, a think tank with offices in Washington D.C. and Madrid stressed that the honourary title was "the highest recognition that a foreigner can receive".

The tribute is "an excellent example of the opportunity for Spain to take advantage of shared history with the United States to strengthen relations between the two countries," said the director of the Hispanic Council, Daniel Ureña, in a statement.

According to Ureña, that opportunity will be particularly significant in 2015, when "the 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine, Florida, will be held". The city, founded by Spain in 1565, is the US’s oldest continuously populated, European-established city.

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MILITARY

Spain drops probe into ex-military WhatsApp ‘kill squad’

Spanish prosecutors have dropped an investigation into messages posted in a WhatsApp group of retired military officers that denounced Spain's left-wing government and discussed shooting political adversaries.

Spain drops probe into ex-military WhatsApp 'kill squad'
Photo: JOSEPH EID / AFP

The group was made up of high-ranking retired members of the air force with some of the messages leaked in December to the Infolibre news website, sparking public outrage.

The messages focused on the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, whose Socialists rule alongside the hard-left Podemos in Spain’s first coalition government since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

“I don’t want these scoundrels to lose the elections. No. I want them and all of their offspring to die,” wrote one.

“For them to die, they must be shot and 26 million bullets are needed,” wrote another, referring to the number of people who cast their ballots in favour.

Prosecutors opened their investigation in mid-December after finding the statements were “totally contrary to the constitutional order with veiled references to a military coup”.

But they dropped the probe after concluding the content of the chat did not constitute a hate crime by virtue of the fact it was a private communication.

“Its members ‘freely’ expressed their opinions to the others ‘being confident they were among friends’ without the desire to share the views elsewhere,” the Madrid prosecutors office said.

The remarks constituted “harsh” criticism that fell “within the framework of freedom of expression and opinion,” it said.

The decision is likely to inflame protests that erupted in mid-February over the jailing of a Spanish rapper for tweets found to be glorifying terrorism, a case that has raised concerns over freedom of speech in Spain.

According to Infolibre, some of the chat group also signed a letter by more than 70 former officers blaming the Sanchez government for the “breakdown of national unity” that was sent to Spain’s King Felipe VI in November.

Such remarks echo criticism voiced by Spain’s rightwing and far-right opposition that has denounced the government for courting separatist parties in order to push legislation through parliament where it only holds a minority.

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