Gutiérrez Mellado, Manuel


Gutiérrez Mellado, Manuel
b. 1912, Madrid; d. 1995, Guadalajara
   Army officer
   Gutiérrez Mellado had a key role in the transition to democracy in Spain, when as Minister for Defence he initiated the liberalization and depoliticization of the armed forces. During the Civil War, while sympathizing with Franco's rising, he remained in Madrid under an assumed identity, smuggling Nationalist sympathizers out of the Republican zone. He later joined the Franco forces and worked in the Nationalist propaganda services.
   By the time of the formation of the first Suárez cabinet in 1976, Gutiérrez Mellado was known in the army as a liberal, and was consequently unpopular with the "ultras" or the "bunker", as the hard right came to be called. When this group circulated a dossier on him, in an attempt to discredit him, his intended appointment as Minister of Defence had to be postponed, and he became Chief of Staff, only acceding to a cabinet seat on the resignation of the hardline Santiago y Díaz de Mendívil. Despite the hostility of the bunker, Gutiérrez Mellado embarked on a series of important reforms, promoting liberal officers over rightwingers, and thereby breaching the traditional rigid system of promotion strictly on length of service. This earned him virulent abuse in public speeches by ultras, and in leaflets distributed in military housing areas. During the attempted coup of 23 February 1981, he showed considerable courage in confronting Tejero in the parliament building, when his rank did not prevent him being roughly manhandled. Gutiérrez Mellado withdrew from the government in 1981 on Suárez's resignation. Although the next cabinet was entirely civilian, the pace of military reform was slowed down. Nevertheless, the changes introduced by Gutiérrez Mellado were the foundation for two measures enacted by Suárez's successor, Calvo Sotelo, which made it easier to remove unsuitable officers, and made promotion dependent on merit. The programme pursued by Narcis Serra built further on this foundation, introducing stringent tests of professional competence for promotion to senior ranks, and considerably slimming down the officer corps.
   In later life, Gutiérrez Mellado engaged in charitable work, becoming President of the Foundation for Help Against Drug Addiction. In 1994, he was created Marqués de Gutiérrez Mellado. He died as the result of a road accident, on the way to Barcelona to deliver a lecture to a student audience.
   See also: armed forces; politics
   Further reading
   - Preston, P. (1986) The Triumph of Democracy in Spain, London and New York: Methuen (a lucid account of Gutiérrez Mellado's role in reforming the armed forces).
   EAMONN RODGERS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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