At 10:25 a.m. on 30 October 1978, a bomb exploded in the offices of the newspaper El País, injuring three people, two seriously (one of whom died two days later) and the third less severely. An extreme right-wing terrorist group sent a package to the newspaper’s headquarters on Calle Miguel Yuste in Madrid, where the newspaper’s editorial office is still located.
Janitors Andrés Fraguas, 19, and Carlos Barranco, 18, and the head of general services, Juan Antonio Sampedro, 34, had been working on the fourth floor of the building (used at the time for administrative work) for half an hour, sorting the incoming mail for distribution within the office. At one point, Barranco was working alone on the task and it was he who removed the package out of the Post Office bag.
The package, measuring about 10 by 15 centimetres and 4–5 centimetres in thickness, bore the IBM company logo.. It was addressed to Julián García Candau, editor-in-chief of the morning edition. Janitor Carlos Barranco removed the red strings and the yellow wrapper to reveal a wooden box inside. On one side, through a small hole, he could see wires. He left the package on the table and told Juan Antonio Sampedro of his suspicions.
Sampedro, who was accustomed to false alarms and threats, began to open the box. He was standing. Next to him, seated, was Andrés Fraguas. Carlos Barranco, half seriously and half jokingly, said that just in case he was going to get under the table, as he had on other similar occasions. He was crouching down when the bomb went off. The powerful explosion severed Sampedro’s left hand and part of his right hand and ruptured his intestinal tract. Fraguas received very severe injuries to the lungs. Barranco suffered injuries to both eyes. Sampedro and Barranco survived the attack, but not Andrés Fraguas, who died two days later.
The next day, El País came out as usual. On the cover page was a letter signed by employees at the paper entitled ‘The Highest Price’. The piece reflected the spirit of Spain’s transition to democracy, pitting the courage of those who defended the freedoms regained after years of dictatorship against the terrorists who sought to nourish fear and prevent the consolidation of democracy. On another page, Francisco Umbral wrote: “Death at home, death in the newspaper, leaves me hollow inside, as death always leaves one”.
The National Court found Pedro Bel-Fernández, Rafael Gómez-Álvarez and Ramiro Rodríguez-Borlado guilty of committing the attack on El País and sentenced them to 30 years in prison. The same individuals were also convicted of perpetrating some of the bloodiest crimes committed by the far right, for which they received further sentences of 81, 103 and 80 years, respectively, although under the old Penal Code, the maximum term they could serve was 30 years.