10. Luis Carrero-Blanco: In 1970s Spain, the Dictator’s appointed heir was blown sky-high by assassins’ explosives
In 1973, Francisco Franco, who had ruled Spain with an iron fist since the end of the Civil War in 1939, was close to death. Supporters of his regime regarded Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco as his natural successor as head of the Spanish state. The devoutly-Catholic politician, therefore, became the number one target for the regime’s enemies, above all for ETA, the Basque separatist group who were willing to use extreme violence to further their aims.
For five months, a small team of ETA activists prepared for the attack. Posing as art students, they rented a basement flat on the street Carrero Blanco regularly drove down on his way to morning Mass. They dug a tunnel under the road and placed explosives in it. Then, on December 20 1973, they sprung their trap. The explosion occurred at exactly the right moment. The official car was launched 20 meters into the air, over a five-story building. Though his driver and bodyguard were killed outright, Carrero Blanco miraculously survived the blast, though he succumbed to his injuries shortly afterwards.
A few weeks later, ETA claimed responsibility for the assassination. Notably, the Spanish government-in-exile did not condemn the attack, and even today some people argue that, for all their atrocities and inexcusable violence ever since, ETA played a big part in ensuring democracy returned to Spain. Indeed, following the assassination, Torcuato Fernandez Miranda was proclaimed Prime Minister. Rather than imposing a state of emergency and cracking down ruthlessly on political factions opposed to the Franco regime, he instead called or calm.
Within less than 18 months, Franco was dead. With no natural successor in place, the King returned to Spain and the slow process of transforming the country back into a parliamentary democracy would begin. ETA, meanwhile, continued their campaign of violence against the Spanish state for a further three decades.