In his first speech to a crowd of more than 2,000 people in the capital, Madrid, President Felipe Calderon called on the country’s citizens to “join forces” in order to prevent “a coup d’état.”
The remarks came in the wake of a string of political assassinations and other political turmoil that has engulfed the nation in the last three months.
The former president, who served from 1996 to 2007, has faced intense criticism for not denouncing the actions of the military during the recent protests that culminated in the death of more a hundred people.
In an interview with the Spanish daily El País published Friday, the president said he has never had a personal political vendetta against the current president, but has “taken a lot of anger” over the recent unrest.
He added that he had “no intention of being an assassin” but “would rather not see what is happening now.”
The president’s comments came after the leader of Spain’s right-wing opposition party, Cope, said in a televised interview that Calderon “will not be able to defend himself” against accusations that he has used “inhumane violence” to try to oust him from office.
Speaking at a rally Saturday, Copes leader Mariano Rajoy said he was “sure” Calderon would not be held responsible for the violence, but the comments could hurt his party’s chances in elections in September.
“The president has never used force,” Rajoy told the crowd at a stadium in Madrid, the Spanish language news agency EFE reported.
“But there are other things that we have to do to defend ourselves against the accusations.”
Cope’s leader, Pablo Iglesias, said Calderon had used “incendiary and abusive” language and was “ignoring the rule of law.”
“His aim is to destroy the government and to make it impossible for a legitimate government to come to power,” Iglesios said.
“That’s why the government must resign, because it is a very dangerous time.”
The comments come after Calderon met with protesters at a Madrid government building, which was closed to media on Saturday.
The president was asked about the criticism after the event and said he did not expect it.
“I don’t expect people to be angry with me.
I don’t think they’ll take my words seriously,” he said.
But he did say the situation was different in Spain than elsewhere, where “there is a lack of understanding and the fear of change.”
He said he had spoken to Calderon about his comments.
“What we said was the right thing to do, but I didn’t expect it to be taken as a threat.
It’s understandable that there’s anger.
I respect the anger.
But the president doesn’t want to be in trouble, he wants to live his life,” Calderon said.
Calderon’s comments are the latest in a series of public attacks on the president’s handling of the crisis, which has killed more than a hundred and injured hundreds more.