On March 25, 1983, an ETA-military commando kidnapped a Diego Prado and Colón de Carvajal. The target had not been selected because he was the president of the Discount Bank, but because of his family’s relations with the Casa del Rey, because of his surname, because he was the brother of a fundamental character in these years: Ambassador Manuel Prado y Colón de Carvajal, friend and private administrator of King Juan Carlos. ETA was targeting a ‘state’ businessman. And to make matters worse, a direct descendant of Admiral Christopher Columbus, the watchword of the history of Spain. The terrorists were basically looking for money to finance their activities. They do not stop being a mafia
with pretenses and political pretensions, although with great prestige and support in the streets and in some institutions of the Basque Country.
ETA-m claimed responsibility for the kidnapping through a call to the Radio Popular de Bilbao station. The terrorist organization demanded a ransom of more than one billion pesetas, 1,300 according to the newspaper ‘El País’. An immense fortune. Meanwhile, ‘Diario 16’ assured that the family had had two telephone conversations with the captors, although the Prado and Colón de Carvajal denied it.
“Stopping a command”
Two weeks after the kidnapping, a first reference to the event appeared on the agenda of Cesid’s director, Emilio Alonso Manglano: “Arrest of a commando (ETA-m) that is in the kidnapping of D. Prado”. The State Security Forces and Bodies were focused on locating the businessman, with Minister José Barrionuevo at the helm. Several indications pointed to a hidden command in the Madrid neighborhood of Pilar. After combing the entire area, the Police detained four ETA members and intervened five safe houses, but were unable to free Diego Prado. It still remained in the hands of other members of the Madrid command. Two months after the kidnapping, after distressing silences, the family demanded proof of life. The ETA members questioned the captive and sent the transcript and a photograph to the newspaper ‘Egin’.
The happy ending took place just released in the early morning of June 6. An anonymous call to the newsroom of ‘El País’ revealed the whereabouts of Diego Prado and Colón de Carvajal. An employee of Iberia, a company that his brother had chaired, went to look for him and picked him up. Much was speculated about the payment of a ransom. Manolo Prado acknowledged at a press conference that he had negotiated with the captors. Several years later, in June 1999, José Ignacio Aracama Mendia, alias ‘Makario’, one of the most relevant ETA terrorists, will be sentenced to 25 years in prison for the kidnapping.
The ransom payment will be estimated between 600 and 700 million pesetas, a stratospheric amount in 1983, around four million euros in 2020. Who paid that sum to preserve the life of the businessman? Manolo Prado said that he had not sold any assets, thereby denying the payment of the ransom.
Manglano’s agenda offers answers on the June 11, 1983 page: “Money kidnapped by D. Prado was put by Zarzuela”. The person who gives this information to the director of Spanish intelligence is one of his most important subordinates, Manuel Guerrero, head of Cesid’s terrorism area, that is, one of the most important commanders in the State’s counter-terrorism fight, with whom that day dispatches various matters. At that time the Center was focused on a single type of terrorism, that of ETA, for which Manuel Guerrero, who would retire as a colonel and whom Manglano called Manolo, was a qualified source. This episode is part of the biography of Lieutenant General Emilio Alonso Manglano, ‘The chief of the spies’ (Roca Ediciones), which is published today and from which ABC has shelled some passages in recent weeks.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism