MADRID - Former prime minister Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo, who presided during Spain's rocky transition from the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco to liberal democracy, died yesterday, according to his eldest son, Leopoldo Calvo. He was 82.
Mr. Calvo Sotelo governed from February 1981 to December 1982, after Adolfo Suarez stepped down.
During a February 1981 vote to approve Mr. Calvo Sotelo's premiership, a group of right-wing Civil Guards broke into Parliament, fired shots into the ceiling, and held lawmakers captive.
Spain held its breath for 17 hours, as it watched its nascent democratic institutions paralyzed until, following a broadcast by King Juan Carlos condemning the attack, the perpetrators left Parliament by climbing out a window and were arrested.
Following the attempted rightist coup, Parliament set a date for general elections. The Socialist candidate, Felipe Gonzalez, won, ushering in Spain's modern democracy.
"A genuine political moderate, he obviously held things together through the worst moments of Spain's emerging democracy," historian Paul Preston said of Mr. Calvo Sotelo.
Mr. Calvo Sotelo was ennobled by the king, made the marquis of Ria de Ribadeo, and named a grandee of Spain for his steady hand during the attempted coup.
During his career, which included being Spain's second post-Franco prime minister, Mr. Calvo Sotelo held numerous government posts, trade minister among them.
He was married to Pilar Ibanez-Martin Mellado, the daughter of Franco-era government minister Jose Ibanez-Martin.
He leaves eight children: Leopoldo, Maria del Pilar, Juan Victor, Pedro Jose, Victor Maria, Jose Maria, Andres, and Pablo.