Manuel Eleuterio Liáñez, the story of a forgotten victim | Spain


Shortly before eleven o’clock in the morning of June 13, 1962, an explosive device exploded in front of the delegation of the National Social Security Institute (INP) in the central Madrid street of Sagasta. As a result of the shock wave, Manuel Eleuterio Liáñez Benítez, 71, died instantly. His shattered body was left in the middle of the street and a passerby placed some cardboard to cover it until the body was lifted. Two other people, Antonio Jiménez and Julián García, were slightly injured.

The political-social brigade of the Franco regime soon discovered that the bomb came from the anarchist group Defensa Interior, which had just started a campaign of attacks that would last until October 1963. They also identified the victim. A first hypothesis pointed to the possibility that the explosive was inside a portfolio that Liáñez himself had in his hands; but it was soon concluded that the most probable thing was that, upon realizing the existence of the artifact, which he mistook for another object, the man touched it and exploded.

His body was identified by Manuela Aguado, owner of the pension where Liáñez lived since 1960 on Calatrava street in Madrid. No one claimed the body. He lived alone and had no family. The judicial summary was closed after six months, in December. The Francoist press barely echoed the attack, and the death of Manuel Eleuterio Liáñez was thus forgotten.

An anarchist group of ephemeral life

The anarchist group Defensa Interior had a short-lived existence: it acted between 1962 and 1963. It had been created at the II Intercontinental Congress of the CNT, held in Limoges (France) in 1961. Its life was almost as short as that of another terrorist group in At the time, the DRIL (Iberian Revolutionary Liberation Directorate), dissolved in 1964. Only ETA, which also emerged in those years, prolonged terrorism for several decades. In a year and a half of terrorist activity, Defense Interior blew up 40 devices throughout Spain: the General Vicariate of the Military, banks, newspapers, electricity poles, vertical unions … They even planted a 20-kilo bomb on the Aldapeta slope, in San Sebastián, to try to assassinate Franco, but the plan failed as the dictator delayed his summer visit to the city.

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In addition to the one that cost Manuel Eleuterio Liáñez his life, the most serious attack – and the best known in its day – was committed by the group on July 29, 1963 at the General Directorate of Security, in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, where it resulted 15-year-old adolescent Carmen Anguita was seriously injured. Two anarchists who were not involved were arrested, charged and executed for this attack. In October 1963, the new leadership of the CNT paralyzed the Interior Defense activity, which was dissolved in 1965.

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Building in Madrid's calle Sagasta, 6, where a bomb exploded in 1962 that no one claimed responsibility for.
Building in Madrid’s calle Sagasta, 6, where a bomb exploded in 1962 that no one claimed responsibility for.

Ignorance about the case of Liáñez pushed the Memorial Center for Victims of Terrorism, inaugurated last June in Vitoria, to investigate the life of this man, since one of its objectives is to vindicate the personal history of the victims of terrorism, highlights its head of research, Gaizka Fernández. After this reconstruction work on the case, Manuel Eleuterio Liáñez will be registered in the memorial as the second victim of terrorism in Spain. The first is the girl Begoña Urroz, who died in San Sebastián, in June 1960, due to the explosion of a DRIL (Iberian Revolutionary Liberation Directory) bomb; and the third is the civil guard José Pardines, assassinated by ETA in June 1968. The history of both victims is well known. The same does not happen with Liáñez’s. No one had claimed it until now. And the consequence was that his name does not even appear in the list of victims of the Ministry of the Interior.

The head of investigation of the memorial attributes it to Liáñez living in poverty and subsisting on petty theft. During the Republic and the Civil War he had been a member of the anarchist union CNT (National Labor Confederation). Paradoxically, he would accidentally die from the explosion of a bomb planted by his former colleagues.

Liáñez’s story is that of a loser in successive battles, Gaizka Fernández narrates. Born in Huelva in 1891, into a humble family, he moved to Seville, where he worked as a commercial agent for the Larios house. In 1934 he settled in Madrid and joined the CNT through an Andalusian friend, Fausto Catalán Sánchez. His correspondence shows his support for the Second Republic. During the Civil War he was responsible for a quartermaster park of the anarchist union.

According to the investigation of the memorial, his influence was decisive in saving the life of a businessman affiliated with the CEDA (Spanish Confederation of Autonomous Rights), Gregorio Ortiz Palacios, who ran a cinema in Villaverde Alto. Ortiz had been confined in the Czech one on Fomento Street, in Madrid, by a group of anarchist militiamen, and was to be shot in a matter of hours. His driver and his friend Fausto Catalán asked Liáñez to exert his influence in the CNT to save Ortiz, whom he did not know. He got it.

After the Civil War the track of Liáñez is lost. It is known that between 1941 and 1942 he worked as a commercial agent for a Malaga company and between 1956 and 1957 for Casa Requena de Játiva, due to the statement he made before the Vagos y Maleants Court after being arrested for theft on January 23, 1959. He served six months in prison. Arrested again in October 1959, he was imprisoned in Nanclares de Oca (Álava) and released in February 1960. Two years later he died in the anarchist attack on the Madrid street of Sagasta.

Gaizka Fernández highlights how the case of Liáñez, a loser in the Civil War, is the symptom of a very serious problem of that time – that of those who, after the war, ended up living poorly and resorting to begging or crime – which was reflected in the increase in crimes against property: in 1959, the year in which Liáñez was arrested, 52,697 cases were opened in Spain for this reason: 44% of the total. A year earlier, in 1958, there had been 48,458 (43.5%); and in 1960, 54,441 (44.6%). When Manuel Eleuterio Liáñez Benítez died, already retired, he was living on a subsidy of 400 pesetas per month and was paying 300 for the pension. He went to soup kitchens to subsist.


elpais.com

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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