The Ministry of Defence has sacked the commander of a military base in Logroño in La Rioja province after the base hosted a meal on the premises with affiliates and supporters of Spain’s new ultra-right VOX party, including party General Secretary Javier Ortega Smith.
Lieutenant Colonel Gustavo Adolfo Martínez Benito, who was sworn in as commander of the Equestrian Military-Sports facility at Logroño in early July, was removed from his post on Friday after just seven months in office. The sacking occurred just two weeks after Ortega Smith attended a luncheon for VOX members and supporters and just days after a video widely circulating on social media showed the VOX firing an assault rifle on a target range at the Javalí Nuevo base of the Spanish Army’s Airborne Division in Murcia.
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The Defence Ministry responded to the video of Ortega Smith by immediately announcing that the Estado Mayor de la Defensa (Joint Chiefs of Staff) would conduct a review of the circumstances surrounding his participation in the target practice, which apparently occurred during a special course offered by the Army to familiarize legislators, public officials and other civilians with military operations.
The removal of Lt. Colonel Martínez Benito in Logroño also comes less than one month after Defence Minister Margarita Robles unceremoniously sacked Spain’s military chief of staff, Army Gen. Fernando Alejandre.
Alejandre’s removal occurred after a year of reported multiple clashes with Robles over a variety of issues, including the general’s apparent unwillingness to censure the signing last year by more than 100 current and former military officers of a letter protesting plans by the government of President Pedro Sánchez to remove the remains of former dictator Gen. Francisco Franco from the Valley of the Fallen complex outside Madrid.
A staunch nationalist and co-founder of the VOX party, Ortega Smith fulfilled his obligatory military training with the Spanish military’s elite special forces Grupos de Operaciones Especiales (GOES) unit. A solid supporter of Spain’s military, Ortega Smith is also close to the ultra-right Falange party, having contributed articles to its magazine Así, and is a cousin of retired Naval Infantry Gen. Juan Chicarro Ortega, chief executive officer of the Francisco Franco National Foundation.
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