Robles unceremoniously sacks military chief of staff

Defense Minister Margarita Robles on visit to Los Llanos/Maestranza air base. Photo: Defense Ministry
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Just one day after the first Consejo de Ministros cabinet meeting of the new coalition government of President Pedro Sánchez, Defense Minister Margarita Robles unceremoniously sacked Spain’s military chief of staff, who found out about his dismall while attending a NATO meeting in Brussels on regional defense.

After inheriting Gen. Fernando Alejandre as the military chief of staff upon becoming Defense Minister in the first Sánchez government, Robles reportedly had clashes over multiple issues with the army official.

Among the incidents were the general’s apparent unwillingness to censure the signing last year by more than 100 current and former military officers of a letter of protest over the Sánchez government’s plans to remove the remains of former dictator Gen. Francisco Franco from their former place of honour at the Valley of the Fallen complex outside Madrid.

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Alejandre was named military chief of staff in 2017 by former Defense Minister Dolores Cospedal during the last administration of President Mariano Rajoy of the conservative Partido Popular. Rajoy was ousted in May 2018 through a no confidence motion in Congress that brought Sánchez to office. On being named Minister of Defense in the Sánchez government, Robles opted to leave Alejandre in the post until new elections could cement the Sánchez government in office, which did not take place until November 2019.

Robles and the general were also reportedly at odds over his insistence on increased defense spending to upgrade the Spanish army’s aging armoured-vehicle fleet. The difference came into sharp relief when it was revealed that an internal report prepared by the army landed on the desk of Spain’s head of state, King Felipe VI, without having first been cleared through Robles. A copy of the report appeared in photographs taken by the news media when covering Felipe VI’s signing of the royal decree last week naming Sánchez as Spain’s new president.

After clearing the sacking of Alejandre in the Consejo de Ministros cabinet meeting Tuesday, Robles immediately moved to replace the army general with Spanish Air Force Lt. Gen. Miguel Ángel Villarroya, who for the past 18 months has served adviser to the Defense Minister. His appointment follows the protocol whereby officers of the Army, Air Force and Navy rotate as the Spanish military’s chief of staff.

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