Seńor Rafael Calvo Serer, who died in Pamplona on April 19, at the age of 71, was a prominent Spanish newspaper proprietor whose pioneering efforts during the latter years of the Franco regime helped lay the ground for
today’s flourishing press freedom in that country.
Calvo Serer achieved fame largely as the publisher of Madrid the evening newspaper which was closed down by the Franco regime in November 1971, when it had achieved the precarious status of the
capital’s only really independent daily. It had already suffered numerous temporary closure orders and
fines, as a result of its publishing information and editorials to which the Government
The end came dramatically after the regime had stubbornly ignored pleas by the
newspaper’s journalists and printers, and its offices had to be sold off. The building was blown up in April 1973 as crowds
watched, to make way for a new property development.
The censors had first struck, closing down the paper for two months when an ingenious editorial was published on May 30, 1968,
entitled, “Retirement at the Right Time. No to General De Gaulle.” Every discriminating Spanish reader knew it referred not to the French leader, but to General Franco.
Calvo Serer, faced with a trial and probable prison sentence, fled to Paris, where he continued to harrass Franco with his signed articles in Le Monde, Le Figaro, the International Herald Tribune and other foreign
dailies. The regime had prepared charges against him of “endangering the security of the state” and he was subsequently charged in absentia with political
In 1974, when the regime was nearing its end, Calvo Serer played an active part in the foundation of the Democratic Junta, a coalition of clandestine democratic parties which was preparing for the
future. In June, 1976, seven months after Franco’s death, he returned to Spain and was imprisoned
briefly, only to be amnestied soon afterwards.
That same year Spain’s Supreme Court ruled that the closure of his newspaper by the government had been
illegal. In 1977 the same court confirmed that verdict and ordered the post-Franco government to pay compensation and
damages. With democracy established, the Supreme Court set the amount owed to Calvo Serer as 518 million pesetas (f 2.6
million) plus interest.
Calvo Serer’s militant opposition to the dictatorship did not seem conditioned in any way by his self-confessed membership in the Roman Catholic lay
organisation, Opus Dei, several of whose members were ministers of the Franco Governments during the time of his
persecution. He always insisted that his own actions had demonstrated that political freedom existed within Opus Dei, even for strong-willed and strong-minded liberals like