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In the Spotlight: First of October Anti-Fascist Resistance Group (GRAPO)

Author(s): Charlotte Fleishman

The First of October Anti-Fascist Resistance Group (GRAPO) arose during the Franco era. The group was founded in the summer of 1975 as the military wing of the banned Reconstituted Communist Party of Spain (PCE-r). GRAPO members promote the establishment of a Marxist-Lenin government. Maoist influences are also apparent in their political thinking. The groups mission includes uprooting American military forces from Spanish territory, hindering Spains membership in NATO, and installing its own government in the country.

GRAPOs founder, Juan Carlos Delgado de Codex, died in a shoot-out with police in 1979 and was replaced by Manuel Perez Martinez. Martinez, a Manila-born secretary general of the PCE-r, led the group through the next three decades. Although GRAPO lacks the popular support of other terrorist organizations in Spain (such as the Basque Fatherland and Liberty or ETA), it still remains a threat to the Spanish government and the United States.

 GRAPOs first action as a terrorist organization occurred in Madrid on Aug. 2, 1975, when it murdered two members of the Spanish Civil Guard.  Later, in October the same year, it killed four policemen in Madrid in retaliation for the police execution of two associates of ETA and three of the Peoples Revolutionary Armed Forces. Though GRAPO did not claim responsibility for the killings until 1976, its willingness to cooperate with ideologically similar organizations bolstered its livelihood.  Throughout its 30-year history, authorities discovered links between GRAPO and other terrorist organizations, including the German Red Army Faction, the Red Brigades, and Irish Republican terrorists.

During the 1980s and 1990s, GRAPO launched frequent and erratic robbery attempts an effort to fund their operations.  In addition, the group planted bombs at certain in efforts to influence key economic and social decisions. Targets included French and American firms, as well as the headquarters of Spains Popular Party, the U.S. Cultural Center in Madrid, the Madrid Stock Exchange, the Economic Ministry and the Constitutional Court.  GRAPO also conducted kidnappings and assassinations in order to exert political pressure on what it considered fascist governments.  In its pursuit of funds and political power, it killed more than 90 persons and injured 200.  The dead included the president of the Seville Association of Businessmen, the Director of Penal Institutions, Spanish military officers, and Spanish citizens.  The case of Publio Cordon, a businessman kidnapped on June 27, 1995, gained particular notoriety. Despite his family paying the ransom demanded by GRAPO for his return, Cordon was never released.

In May 2000, GRAPO members murdered two security officers in an unsuccessful attempt to raid an armed truck carrying $2 million dollars.  Following the robbery attempt, on Nov. 9, 2000, seven suspected GRAPO affiliates, including the leader, Manuel Perez Martinez, the head of its Central Command Operations, Jose Felipe Lopez, and its head of Military Networks, Fernando Silva Sande, were detained by police in Paris, France.  During the arrest, investigators discovered 70 detonators, a remote control improvised explosive device, counterfeit papers, and currency.

GRAPO recovered slowly from the loss of its leaders until 2002, when Spanish and French law enforcement arrested 22 more suspected members. This delivered a severe blow to GRAPO numbers.  In addition, in 2004, some 24 people were indicted on charges of belonging to the organization, including some who had already served long prison sentences. Currently, the group is estimated to comprise around two dozen active members.

Though GRAPOs numbers receded, former members continue to capture public attention. Sabastian Rodriguez, former GRAPO activist and currently a paraplegic swimmer, won a gold medal in the Athens Paralymics. Rodriguezs leg problems developed after a 432-day hunger strike in an effort to influence the Spanish governments refusal to release other GRAPO members from jail. During his hunger strike, he brought the Spanish government to court in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent prison authorities from keeping him alive. Upon Rodriguezs release from prison, he sold raffle tickets before traveling to Sydney, where he claimed to have lost his legs in a car accident. He won five gold medals.

Since 2002, GRAPO has failed to launch a successful terrorist attack. Possible reasons include difficulty locating funds and falling membership. In addition, in March 2003, the Spanish judicial system outlawed both PCE-r and GRAPO, treating them as a single organization for the first time. However, though GRAPO suffered reductions, it survived. It issued a statement following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, lauding the extremists efforts and congratulating the destruction of symbols of imperialist power. The group also proclaimed that, the war has just begun.  Following the statement, Dec. 5, 2001, then-U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell and the attorney general designated GRAPO as a Terrorist Exclusion List (TEL) organization (along with 39 other groups) under section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.  Under the auspices of the TEL, GRAPO members cannot enter the United States and will suffer deportation if found within the country.

 Sources

  • Philip T. Reeker, Statement on the Designation of 39 Organizations on the USA PATRIOT Acts Terrorism Exclusion Act, Press Statement,  Dec. 6, 2001.
  • Spanish Terror Suspected Arrested. CNN, Nov. 9, 2000.
  • U.S. State Department, Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001-2003.
  • Translation of an Interview of the GRAPO, Resistencia, January 2002.
  • Giles Tremlett, Paralymic Star is a Former Terrorist. The Guardian, Sept. 22, 2004.