The dismissal of General Miguel Ángel Villarroya alters all the relief plans at the top of the Armed Forces. However, there will be no gap in the chain of command: it is expected that next Tuesday the Council of Ministers will approve, in addition to the removal of the Chief of Defense Staff (Jemad), the appointment of his successor, on a proposal of the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez.
However, if the Government decided to give itself a margin of time to elect the new head of the military leadership, the post would not remain vacant, it would be occupied temporarily by the oldest of the chiefs of staff of the three armies: the Army , Francisco Javier Varela.
Varela, 68, will be in office for four years in April, which is why his replacement was considered close, as was that of the chiefs of the Air Force and the Navy, General Javier Salto and Admiral Teodoro López Calderón, respectively.
It was precisely General Villarroya who had to propose the successors of the current heads of the armies. The Chief of the Defense Staff (Jemad) was the youngest of the four – he is 63 years old – he had only been in office for a year (he was appointed on January 15, 2020) and, unlike the previous ones, he it appointed the Government of Pedro Sánchez and not that of Mariano Rajoy.
The cessation forces Minister Robles to review her plans: o appoint the Chief, keeping for now the heads of the armies; or it changes everyone at a stroke, without Villarroya’s successor being able to comment on who the remaining members of the military leadership will be.
The dilemmas don’t end there. According to an unwritten tradition, general officers of the three armies take turns at the post of Jemad; so that, after that of the Air Force, it would now be the Navy’s turn. But since Villarroya has only been in office for a year, the Air Force can claim that the usual four-year shift has not been fulfilled.
It may also be the occasion for Robles to break with this anachronistic tradition and choose the most suitable military man for the position, regardless of the army of origin.
The minister has shown with her appointments that she seeks, above all, people of her utmost confidence. Not surprisingly, Villarroya himself and the Secretary of State for Defense, Esperanza Casteleiro, were formerly heads of Robles’ technical and political cabinets; that is to say, close collaborators of yours. That is why the new Jemad is likely to emerge from the central body of the ministry. If the dismissal had occurred four months earlier, the best placed candidate would have been the former head of the Operations Command. But General Fernando López del Pozo went to the reserve and, although Robles has returned to the Defense Policy Directorate, to be Jemad you have to be on active duty.
The machinery of the Armed Forces is well oiled and, even if the Jemad or the entire military leadership changes, it will continue to attend to its international missions and collaborate to alleviate emergencies such as those caused by pandemics or snowfalls. In the Army no one is essential and all positions of responsibility have a substitute planned in advance. That is why the vaccination of the high command was not a priority.