King Juan Carlos, along with government chiefs and some of the country's leading figures, on Wednesday honored Spanish democracy and the strength of the nation's institutions during a private lunch in Congress held to observe the 30th anniversary of the failed military coup led by Civil Guard Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero Molina.
"The whole truth [about the coup] is known unless they continue to invent more things," the king told reporters. Throughout the years, a slew of conspiracy theories has emerged, including one that suggested the king had initially supported the coup.
The monarch embraced all the former officials who had been present in the chamber on February 23, 1981, including former Communist Party (PCE) leader Santiago Carrillo; Landelino Lavilla, then-Congress president; José Bono, the current president of the body; and Manuel Fraga, the former Galician regional premier. The king said that when he recalls those troubled hours of coup he is reminded that "we are a lot better off [in Spain] than 30 years ago."
More than 30 military officials were charged with complicity following the attempted coup, led by Tejero and a group of officers who stormed Congress and began firing shots in the air.
"It brings back a lot of painful memories," said the 96-year-old Carrillo, who had returned from exile in 1976 during the transition. "It could have ended up badly but everything turned out fine; the people didn't falter."
Wednesday's observance was not without controversy. Earlier in the day, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and opposition Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy entered a heated debate over the Spanish economy during a parliamentary question-and-answer session.
"Mr Rajoy, today is not a day to argue," Zapatero said. "It is a day to observe dignity, unity and the fight for freedom."
Ceremonies and talks were also held in other parts of Spain. In Ávila, a special observance was held for former Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez at a museum built in his honor at his hometown. During the coup, Suárez, who now suffers from Alzheimer's disease, bravely stood still at his parliamentary seat, while other lawmakers ducked as Tejero's men started firing their weapons.
In Madrid, Defense Minister Carme Chacón announced that city officials will name a street in honor of Manuel Gutiérrez Mellado, the late general who was beaten by the some of the coup conspirators when he tried to confront them. Chacón presented a plaque to Gutiérrez's daughter.