Manuel López: «There will almost certainly be a conflict between Morocco, Algeria and the Polisario»


For one reason or another, the Sahara is always a current conflict. Do you think it will stop being one day?

It’s hard. At first, when we were in the Sahara, the presence of Morocco, Algeria and the Spanish, who were the administrators of the territory, was very clear, but the Polisario, which was totally wrong, was in favor of Morocco and hurt us. Morocco received the full aid of the Americans against Algeria, the pro-Soviet and the Polisario. The UN has always been a bit sleepy on this issue. The administration, as I have said, was ours and then shared with Morocco in Mauritania. We found ourselves in the middle and we had to leave because the Polisario and the Moroccans were attacking us. Now supreme chief Morocco remains there.

And what happens?

It has taken over the Sahara, it has thrown out all the Sahrawis, it has built a 2,800-kilometer wall that runs through the entire desert and has left a minimal fringe for the Sahrawis who have had to go to the Algerian area. At the time, when Juan Carlos was going to be king and did not want to replace Franco because he demanded democracy, he asked the Americans for help, who granted it to him for that purpose. That is why now Morocco cannot get much involved with the Spanish, because the Americans helped Spain at the time. There will almost certainly be a conflict between Morocco, Algeria and the Polisario, which is very close to the Algerians because they practically live there and cannot enter Morocco. The UN does not dictate anything or say anything. I don’t think our problem with Morocco will be solved, but there will be no mess.

The claim of the Sahara by the Kingdom of Morocco, does it bring about a consciousness of territorial unity or is it about economic interests?

It is because Morocco wants, from the beginning, to organize Greater Morocco. It includes the Sahara and, if they will let you, Ceuta, Melilla and the Canary Islands. When you feel powerful, you want to claim all this.

In his book he presents as real, the action of a Spanish military air unit until the end of decolonization. What facts was missing to narrate?

The military unit is the Desert Hawks of which I was a pilot. I was the last plane to take off from Laayoune and the penultimate from Villacisneros. There were rowdies at the border every day for two years. We were always in action because Morocco was getting into our territory and we had to drive them out. In each action we discovered things. With the nomadic troops of the legion, we were telling them where to go, making sure that the Moroccans did not enter our area. Unfortunately, in the squad we had eleven dead and many others that people do not know.

Is it a true and objective story or a highly novel and emotional evocation?

Everything is objective, what has been lived by me and my colleagues.

“The Greater Morocco to be created would include the Sahara and, if it could, Ceuta, Melilla and the Canary Islands»


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When the famous Green March dissuades Spain from defending what was its territory, many Spaniards feel disappointed or betrayed. What did its protagonist, Lieutenant Victor and his companions think then?

We wanted to go from the beginning. Spain mounted the Yemaa there, Sahrawis who were preparing to rule the Sahara. We wanted to leave the territory and leave it to them. It could not be because the Polisario Front came out and many conflicts arose, but in the beginning, Spain was leaving because we had nothing to do there even though we were administrators. The military exit was a bit dishonorable because we knew we could have been able to with them, but in politics we did well. We did not deserve a war in which Spaniards died defending something that was not ours. When the UN says that Morocco, Mauritania and Spain could be the ones to administer that, we left quietly.

The desert hawks seems like a mythical title, but the reality that is remembered does not seem very heroic …

For me they were all heroes because we lived in an incredible situation. I was lucky to see all the flights and missions that we did. We discovered many things flying over there. It’s called The Falcons because our squad was called the Falcon. We had a plane that was no longer used much, but perfect for flying over the area. For example, on a border there was a bombing. The recon F5s came out and saw nothing. We went out and discovered that the Moroccans went underground, covered themselves with sand, placed some beads and breathed. We find them. We dismantle this network. There was also a ship that released rafts that entered our territory and had to be controlled.

What do you suppose would have happened if Spain rejected the invasion and defended that territory as its own?

We would have gone to war and it was not convenient. I did not give a dead Spaniard there for that because it was not ours nor would it ever be, we were only administrators.

In short, what happened in the Spanish Sahara?

As I have already said, Morocco wanted to create Greater Morocco and the Polisario was totally wrong about allies, first with Morocco and then with Algeria. The UN continues to say that the administrators remain Morocco, Mauritania and Spain.

Do you share in any way the position of the Polisario or do you think Morocco is right?

Morocco is not right and the Polisario and the Sahrawi people were wrong because they had the Yemaa government. Spain was preparing them to govern, but the Polisario Front brought down Yemaa and attacked us, not Morocco. We recruited Sahrawi troops, but then they went to the Polisario because they couldn’t get higher and they had other pretensions. When the UN came to see us, they found posters and demonstrations in Laayoune from Outside Spain and Long Live the Polisario, with which they saw that the Sahrawis did not want us, although in reality it came from the Polisario.

As a connoisseur of this history from a military perspective, do you think it possible that this controversy could end in war?

As I said, between Morocco and Algeria, possibly yes because they already had one and are arming themselves to the teeth.

How do you qualify politically the latest episode of the conflict, the medical assistance in Spanish territory to the Polisario chief?

I think what Spain did wrong because Brahim Gali had nothing to do with us. He was a member of the nomadic troops, a creator of the Polisario Front. Gali has reached agreements with Morocco that he has never fulfilled and Moroccans have been angry with the help provided by Spain. I would not have let him in except for a serious health care reason because justice is looking for him here and there.

What sensations would you like your novel to leave behind?

Information because only what is known is who was not there.

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