The stone house balcony of the center of The Ferrol He was a silent witness: Francisco took his cousin Ricardo three years, but they still played together, "like brothers". Watching them always and attentively, their mothers, Pilar and Carmen, surrounded by eight other children of the family who scampered through the spacious rooms of the house. A little more than three decades later, Francisco Franco Bahamonde He shot his playmate, Ricardo de la Puente Bahamonde. He was accused of not having surrendered the airport of Sania Ramel, in Tetouan, where Franco had planned to land the July 18 at Dragon Rapide, coming from Casablanca, to put himself at the head of the uprising. This airfield was essential for the airlift with the Peninsula.
Now, the researcher, journalist and politician of the PP, Pedro Corral, has remembered him in his work This was not in my Civil War book (Editorial Almuzara), which will be published next 18, and where it reproduces for the first time "the military testament of the last high-ranking officer who resisted the uprising in the Spanish zone of the Moroccan Protectorate": Ricardo, the cousin, "the that he was more than a brother. " Neither knew that Franco was at the head of the rebellion or stopped complying with the orders given him by the Republic.
Of the 12 pages that De la Puente wrote before his death, his family has kept 11. They are his defense plea before being convicted and that, however, were not included in the summary of 700 pages. Corral explains: "We will never know why. Yes because he wrote them too late or because they were not admitted. " For Joaquin Gil Honduvilla, lieutenant legal colonel and who has studied the case, "these documents are unpublished." The military -author of Morocco, the 17th at 17- believes, however, that more than the court were directed to the family.
In particular, De la Puente wrote: "That neither his best friends, nor even relatives among those who, as has been seen later, were the Head of the Movement, were insinuated by any class [sobre la rebelión que se avecinaba], which is why the undersigned believes that not even lack of fellowship can be labeled ". The court would sentence him to death on August 3, 1936.
And the premonition would end up being fulfilled. "One day I'll have to shoot him," says Pilar Jaraiz Franco, the dictator's niece, who sputtered after arguing with Ricardo in 1934, two years before the funereal premonition came true. However, Franco never signed the sentence. Knowingly. The general did Luis Orgaz for reasons of "interim", as if Cousin Francisco "was absent or ill," says Corral. The general was in Ceuta when the bullets went through Ricardo's body. He looked away.
On August 3, the same day that Orgaz confirmed the sentence of execution, Franco was appointed member of the National Defense Board. In his new condition, he had full power to decide on pardon or commutation of sentence. But the next day, at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, next to the walls of the Ceuta fortress of El Hacho, De la Puente was executed. There was no mercy.
Why did not Franco save his cousin? Corral speculates with two reasons. The first that did not want to leave in the hands of the Board that he presided over the "paper" to pardon or not his relative and the second because he wanted to be "hard and inflexible" against the Republican Government. A decision that also served to clear doubts among the rebel generals, who would end up appointing the new head of state on October 1, who "had given such cold and stark proof of his commitment to the cause."
Ricardo de la Puente Bahamonde, 40 years old, chief of the Air Force of North Africa, had received an explicit order from Arturo Álvarez-Buylla, high commissioner in the Moroccan Protectorate, at seven o'clock on the afternoon of July 17, 1936: quartered at the aerodrome and reject any foreseeable attack by the insurgents, possibly the hardened units of the Legion and the Regulars of Melilla.
The aerodrome, built in 1913, had only one runway and was essential to receive possible reinforcements from the legal Government. Therefore, De la Puente ordered that their angles be illuminated with rags soaked in gasoline to facilitate the arrival of loyal aircraft. It destroyed, in addition, seven Breguet XIX fighters that were in the hangars to prevent them from falling into enemy hands, recovered their machine guns to defend the position, sent two cars to block the access road and waited. Soon after, the vehicles returned: a powerful military column was approaching them.
His reputation as a soldier - and the possible fierce resistance to deliver the installation. He made the head of the rebel forces in Tetouan, Colonel Sáenz de Buruaga, telephone him before the assault. He threatened to bomb Samia Ramel and destroy him if he did not surrender. De la Puente refused. "That the only communication he received was without any explanation of reasons, a telephone call in which a voice that he said belonged to Colonel Buruaga announced that a column was leaving to seize the airfield," he wrote.
He added: "Even on the basis that, indeed, it was Colonel Buruaga who gave the order, he did not have the one who subscribes the most news about that Mr. Colonel who was in Tetouan in a situation of being available and without even the At that time he would have been informed by no appointment whatsoever, for which reason he did not take the communication into account and continued to comply with orders received from the High Commissariat ".
At four o'clock on the morning of July 18, the fight began. The regulars surrounded the airfield, but the machine guns of the defenders stopped them. Then a bombing began. The resistance of the military loyal to the Republic was useless. De la Puente raised the white flag. Hours later, Franco (dressed in civilian clothes and without a mustache) landed in Samia Ramel and was informed of the arrest of his cousin. He embraced Sáenz de Buruaga.
De la Puente, with eight other officers, was sent to the prison of El Hacho until his execution in August. Captain Bermudez-Reyna and Ensign Sorroche, despite being sentenced to prison terms, would also, like the high commissioner in Morocco, Arturo Álvarez-Buylla
Of those ten children who played happily in the house of Ferrol, two others were again in the midst of war. Enrique de la Puente (Ricardo's brother), was assigned to the Pollensa seaplane base in Mallorca, which was in command of his cousin Ramón Franco. Fate caused Enrique, after the war, to instruct the files of ascent of the officers of aviation shot by the republicans. In 1956 he was appointed field assistant to Franco and in 1965, second head of his Military House.
Carmen Bahamonde, Ricardo's mother died in 1943, a death that "was picked up prominently by the press" at the time. "The funeral of the aunt carnal of his Excellency the Head of State was presided over by the civil governor of Valencia," the newspapers described. There was no mention of Ricardo.
In the eighties of the last century, Pilar Franco -Sherman of the dictator and one of the girls who were running around the old Ferrolan house- tried to justify the execution. "All the commanders watched the Caudillo to see if he would forgive the cousin. He had no other choice but to be inflexible. This shows how much he was aware of his duty and what kind of love he had for Spain. " In fact, after the war, the Francoist state recognized a widow's pension for Josefa del Saz Martín, widow of De la Puente. "A gesture that is only explained by mediating reasons of consanguinity with General Franco," writes Corral.
Carmina de la Puente, Ricardo's sister and another one of the girls from the Ferrolan house, was arrested by the authorities of the Republic at the beginning of the war. He was transferred to Toreno prison, where he coincided with Pilar Jaraiz Franco, Francisco's niece. In prison he began to rant. The testimony of Jaraiz remains: "He said that [ser hermana de Ricardo] it must be enough to let her free, that she was not to blame for the one her cousin Paco had put together, "the one who played with them in the old Ferrol house as a happy and united family.