The robbery of the Central Bank was an assault produced at the headquarters of the Central Bank of Barcelona ( Spain ) on May 23 , 1981 . The motives for this assault have not been completely clarified and the hypotheses range from the attempted robbery to the obtaining of compromising documents regarding the events of 23F . The assault resulted in the retention of some three hundred people as hostages, workers and bystanders who were inside the building at the time of the assault, and lasted 37 hours.
After the attempted coup of February 23, 1981 three months earlier, Spain was still trying to recover from the shock produced by the attempt to end a democracy that was making its way after the death of Francisco Franco . As president of the Government of Spain was Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo , who had been elected 2 days after the famous session during which the 23F coup attempt took place, and with Felipe González as head of the opposition.
The assault began on Saturday, May 23, a few minutes after nine in the morning, the day the office was open. The headquarters, then located at number 23 Plaza de Catalunya in Barcelona, comprised an entire seven-storey building and had access from the Rambla in Barcelona .
At least eleven people entered the building led by José Juan Martínez Gómez , alias " El Rubio ", detaining employees, clients and passers-by. At 9:23, the police received an anonymous tip that the bank was being robbed. Later, around two thirty, the main newsrooms of the Barcelona newspapers are warned that there is a statement in a phone booth in Plaça de Catalunya and the journalists from the Diario de Barcelona pick it up. In the communiqué, typed in Spanish, the authorities are required to release "four heroes of February 23 and our brave Lieutenant Colonel Tejero" and the disposition of two planes, one at the Barajas airportand the other in El Prat , to facilitate the departure of these five soldiers and the command lodged in the bank. Likewise, a period of 72 hours is given and the threat is to execute 10 hostages at the entrance and 5 every hour. The Government of Spain , put on alert after the statement, takes as possible the hypothesis of a possible involvement of members of the Civil Guard and forms a crisis cabinet at the headquarters of the Bank of Bilbao , near the building. The then general director of the Civil Guard, General José Aramburu Topete, sent there . The first government statement points to the hypothesis that the assault is the work of the extreme right. Both Tejero and San Martínthey made statements through their defense lawyers opposing any attempt to remove them. [ 1 ]
The authorities evacuated the Plaza de Cataluña and the upper part of the Ramblas as well as the nearby buildings. [ 2 ] A few hours later, around a quarter in the morning, two of the hostages were evacuated by ambulance, one of them wounded by a firearm. A few minutes later, the first exchange of hostages for food took place. During the first hours, the crisis cabinet considered the hypothesis that Gil Sánchez Valiente , supposedly involved in the recent coup and disappeared since then, was part of the command. [ 3 ]
During the noon and afternoon the assailants made an attempt to escape through a tunnel through the basements of the building, which was impossible, as the stone did not yield to the instruments they had brought. [ 3 ] Seeing that the initial escape plan did not work, they decided to make a pile with the banknotes. Meanwhile, the negotiations continued. After the night a hostage is evacuated, around six in the morning. At ten in the morning a military tank is sent with a megaphone from which a message is transmitted to the assailants. At that moment there was a crossfire between the tank and the assailants. [ 3 ] During the morning, more hostage exchanges took place. At noon theCivil Governor of Barcelona and the Director General of the Police met. [ 3 ] During the morning, one of the assailants, protected with a hostage, came out and walked around the bank.
It is during Sunday afternoon that the assailants begin to negotiate their delivery. However, at 7:55 p.m., a sniper shot down one of the assailants who was holding a hostage above the roof of the building. The death of this assailant, brother-in-law and brother of two of the assailants, causes scenes of nervousness. [ 3 ] All this led to the entrance of the GEOs (police special operations group) through the roof and the advance down the building's floor by floor. At that time there were still more than two hundred hostages held. El Rubio decides that the hostages come out and with them the mixed assailants. [ 3 ]After leaving the Ramblas door, the police made everyone who came out of the building lie down on the ground. Within minutes, nine of the assailants were arrested.
The result of the assault was relatively satisfactory, since there was only one fatality, one injury and the escape of one of the assailants. After his arrest, it was found that the assailants had no connection with politics or with the Civil Guard. [ 4 ] In a press conference, General Aramburu , on behalf of the crisis cabinet, described the assailants as "a gang of sausages, thugs and anarchists." For its part, the Government, represented by Calvo-Sotelo, responded unclearly in the responses to the parliamentary groups. The assailants were sentenced to between 30 and 40 years in prison. [ 3 ]
The official position of the Government after the resolution of the assault is that they were simple criminals. According to José Juan Martínez Gómez Rubio in an interview in 2009, he said he had been contacted by two people, one named Luis, head of covert operations of the CESID , the other being the deputy own security Emilio Alonso Manglano , [ 3 ] that they hired him to steal some documents that were inside the bank and that they told him seriously compromised the security and stability of the country. Always according to the statements of El Rubio, the documents established which general captaincies would act, that Alfonso Armadahe had to preside over the Government of national concentration after the coup of 23F and that the monarchy agreed. Once the assault had begun, Rubio seized the documents and analyzed the contents and put them in a leather case for extraction. [ 3 ] In the first hostage departure, they could have taken him out. However, the captain and second chief of the GEO unit, Enrique Esteban , affirms "if the hostages had taken something with them, it would have been found." [ 3 ]
- «ASSAULT ON THE CENTRAL BANK» . The Vanguard . May 24, 1981. p. 7 . Retrieved November 23, 2014 .
- «ASSAULT ON THE CENTRAL BANK» . The Vanguard . May 24, 1981. p. 8 . Retrieved November 23, 2014 .
- Absolute Minority, Without fiction, Television of Catalonia (ed.). Blow to the Central Bank (in Catalan) .
- Godó Group, ed. (May 26, 1981). "ASSAULT ON THE CENTRAL BANK . " The Vanguard . p. 6 . Retrieved November 23, 2014 .
- Assault on the Central Bank in Internet Movie Database (in English) . (1983 film based on this fact)