Country of the World Spain

About the country Spain, its location, size, population, leaders and rulers.




Lay of the Land: Third-largest country in Europe, occupying 85% of the Iberian Peninsula. It thrusts out from Europe toward Africa and the Americas, separated from France and Andorra in the northeast by the Pyrenees Mountains. Includes the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, and the tiny enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco. The Strait of Gibraltar, 8.5 mi. wide, makes Spain a natural bridge between Europe and Africa. Exceptionally mountainous, with the second-highest average elevation in Europe, its heartland is a great plateau, "La Meseta."

Size: 194,896 sq. mi. (504,782 sq. km.).

Population: 36.5 million.

Who Rules: Officially still a monarchy, the first free elections in 41 years were held June, 1977, in which the Union of the Democratic Center won pluralities in both houses of the Cortes (parliament). In July, 1969, Generalissimo Francisco Franco, then head of state, and the Cortes designated Prince Juan Carlos as the future king. Upon Franco's death on Nov. 20, 1975, Prince Carlos assumed the throne and appointed Adolfo Suarez Gonzales, who headed Franco's political party, as premier. Both the king and the premier have promised to establish representative government and dismantle Franco's repressive institutions. In 1978 Suarez granted Catalonia, in northeastern Spain, limited autonomy with its own regional legislature and executive, but gave them no definite functions or authority.

Who REALLY Rules: After 36 years of harsh, dictatorial rule under Franco, Spain is edging toward democracy. All political parties (125 are registered) have been legalized--including the Communist party--despite deep-rooted opposition by the military and rightists. The police are a force of their own, beyond the control of Suarez or Juan Carlos, and subject political dissenters to harsh reprisals.

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