Notorious Franco-era cop to be stripped of medals and extra pension

Measure announced after PM Sánchez and Podemos chief meet over next year’s budget, but the legal tool that will be used to remove “Billy the Kid’s” decorations are still a mystery

González Pacheco leaves court in a file photo from 2014.
González Pacheco leaves court in a file photo from 2014.efe

A notorious former Spanish police officer known as “Billy the Kid” is to lose the medals he was awarded for his service as well as the extra pension they bring with them. That’s according to a deal reached on Thursday by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, of the Socialist Party (PSOE), and the leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, as part of their ongoing negotiations over the 2019 budget.

Antonio González Pacheco, now 72, is accused of having committed torture while he was a policeman during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. But despite these accusations, he was still awarded four medals for his service, which increased his pension by 50%, according to an Interior Ministry report made public several months ago.

Antonio González Pacheco is accused of having committed torture while he was a policeman during the Franco dictatorship

In one of his first moves after taking on the role of interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska commissioned the report in response to a request by the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH) to strip González Pacheco of his 1977 medal.

González Pacheco’s first medal was awarded by the Franco government in 1972 and raised his pension by 10%. The second was bestowed in 1977 by the transitional government of Adolfo Suárez, who rewarded González Pacheco for securing the release of a government official and a lieutenant general who had been kidnapped by the terrorist group GRAPO between late 1976 and early 1977. This increased his pension by a further 15%.

González Pacheco received a third medal in October 1980 (10%) and a fourth in March 1982 (15%). This latter one was bestowed on the entire Information Brigade that he was attached to, but the ex-police officer had to resort to the courts to receive the money, eventually winning the case and the funds in 2010.

It is still not known which legal measures the government of Pedro Sánchez will use in order to strip him of one or more of his medals and extra pension payments.


González Pacheco picked up the nickname of Billy the Kid because he is reported to have had a habit of spinning his firearm on his finger in an intimidating manner, according to victims.

In 2013 a judge from Argentina, María Servini de Cubría, issued an international arrest warrant for González Pacheco for 13 counts of torture, in an investigation into crimes committed by former officials during the Franco dictatorship. The case was brought to Buenos Aires by relatives of Franco’s victims after they ran into a legal dead end back in Spain. But in 2014, the Spanish High Court (Audiencia Nacional) rejected the order, arguing the crimes had passed the statute of limitations.

In the past few years, more victims have added new accusations of torture to the Argentine complaint. “He stank of alcohol. He was 28 years old, just two years older than me. And he enjoyed torturing. You could tell because in the middle of the fury, as he was kicking and punching you, there was a sign of pleasure, of satisfaction,” Felisa Echegoyen told EL PAÍS.

Chato Galante remembers another incident: “One time, I was handcuffed to the radiator in an office .... He arrived, kicked me and said, ‘You have had the honor of being kicked by Billy the Kid.’ He was very dangerous because he was not very bright and had absolute impunity. He would perform karate moves in front of you, kick you and say, ‘you are a big punching bag.’ He was a compulsive torturer. He enjoyed doing it. He would say, ‘I’m going to destroy you’.”

Historical memory

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez came to power earlier this year after winning a vote of no confidence against his predecessor, Mariano Rajoy of the conservative Popular Party (PP). Sánchez is in power with a minority government, and needs support from parties such as Podemos in order to pass legislation. One of his stated aims is to put new funding behind the Historical Memory Law, which was passed by the previous PSOE administration of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, but was stripped of practically all of its funds by Rajoy’s PP government.

English version by Simon Hunter and Susana Urra.

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