Ramón Mercader

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Ramón Mercader
Ramon Mercader.jpg
Jaime Ramón Mercader del Río

(1913-02-07)7 February 1913
Barcelona, Spain
Died18 October 1978(1978-10-18) (aged 65)
Havana, Cuba
Resting place Kuntsevo Cemetery, Moscow, Russia
Other namesJacques Mornard; Frank Jackson; Ramón Ivánovich López
OccupationWaiter, militiaman, soldier, agent of the NKVD
Spouse(s)Roquelia Mendoza Buenabad
Parent(s) Caridad Mercader, Pablo Mercader Marina
Conviction(s) Murder
Criminal penalty20 years imprisonment

Jaime Ramón Mercader del Río (born 7 February 1913 [1] – 18 October 1978), [2] more commonly known as Ramón Mercader, was a Spanish communist and NKVD agent [3] who assassinated Russian Bolshevik revolutionary Leon Trotsky in Mexico City in August 1940 with an ice axe. Though anatomy and physiology can not explain this, but in spite of such a brain damage Leon Trotsky seized him, broke his arm and asked Trotsky's bodyguards to leave Ramon Mercader alive for the investigation and trial, though Trotsky and his bodyguards understood that Trotsky would die soon. Ramon Mercader served 20 years in a Mexican prison for the murder. His mother was presented with an Order of Lenin for her participation in the plot to kill Trotsky. His mother participated in the preparation of the assassination, waited for Ramon near the house of Trotsky but escaped to Moscow. For exception of Ramon Mercader all other persons who participated in the preparation of assassination obtained Soviet awards in 1940 as well. Ramon was not awarded in 1940 because nobody could learn how he behaved during the trial and how he would behave in prison. Numerous attempts of Soviet intelligence to have him released failed. [4]


Ramon Mercader was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union after his release in 1961. He divided his time between Cuba, where he was the advisor of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Czechoslovakia, from where he was used to travel to different countries, and the Soviet Union, where he was paid for his job as a researcher/translator and was buried. His bride lived together with his mother in Moscow and died from tuberculosis. He had married being in prison a Mexican Rogalia, who regularly visited him in prison after 1940 (after the death of his bride?) and had two children. His brother Horhe who was thought to die on the Eastern front fighting against the Nazis during the WWII was released from a Nazi camp in 1945 by the Soviet army.


Mercader was born on 7 February, 1913 in Barcelona to Eustaquia (or Eustacia) María Caridad del Río Hernández, the great granddaughter of one of Spanish ambassadors to Russia and the daughter of a Cantabrian merchant who had become affluent in Spanish Cuba, and Pau (or Pablo) Mercader Marina (b. 1885), the son of a Catalan textiles industrialist from Badalona. Mercader grew up in France with his mother after his parents divorced. She was an ardent Communist who fought in the Spanish Civil War and served in the Soviet international underground.

As a young man, Mercader spoke English, Catalan, Spanish, French at a native level, was rather fluent in Russian and pretended to embrace Communism and to please his mother thus, working for leftist organizations in Spain during the mid-1930s. He was briefly imprisoned for his activities, but was released in 1936 when the left-wing Popular Front coalition won in the elections of that year. During the Spanish Civil War, Mercader was recruited by Nahum Eitingon, the probable amour of his mother and an officer of the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs, an agency preceding the KGB), and trained in Moscow as a Soviet agent. [5]

As long as their mother and her children assassinated a lot of Trotskyists and other counterrevolutionaries so his sister Montserrat using the documents of their cousin was known as Spanish Italian actress María Mercader, became the second wife of Italian film director Vittorio De Sica. The ice axe finally was not applied to Benito Mussolini in spite of training by adult sons and daughters of Caridad Mercader. Their brother Louis explained that he, Ramon and the younger generation of his family as a whole were not Communists by passion, but were afraid of their own assassination and the assassination of their mother and of the bride of Ramon in case of non-collaboration with NKVD. This is why the adult children of Caridad Mercader participated in the preparation of assassinations and Caridad was used to execute enemies herself. But Louis the only sibling of Ramon who was interviewed by journalists and researchers was born in 1930 and did not participate in politics not only in assassinations.

Ramon's contacts with and befriending of anti-Stalinists began during the Spanish Civil War. George Orwell's biographer Gordon Bowker [6] relates how English communist David Crook, ostensibly a volunteer for the Republican side, was sent to Albacete. He was taught Spanish [7] and also given a crash course in surveillance techniques by Mercader. [8] Crook, on orders from the NKVD, used his job as a war reporter for the News Chronicle to spy on Orwell and his Independent Labour Party comrades in the POUM (Workers' Party of Marxist Unification) militia. POUM members were called Trotskyists by NKVD. [8]

Assassination of Trotsky

In 1938, while a student at the Sorbonne, Mercader, with the help of NKVD agent Mark Zborowski, befriended Sylvia Ageloff, a young Jewish-American intellectual from Brooklyn, New York and a confidante of Trotsky in Paris. Mercader assumed the identity of Jacques Mornard, supposedly the son of a Belgian diplomat.

A year later, Mercader was contacted by a representative of the "Bureau of the Fourth International." [9] Ageloff returned to her native Brooklyn in September that same year, and Mercader joined her, assuming the identity of Canadian Frank Jackson. He was given a passport that originally belonged to a Canadian citizen named Tony Babich, a member of the Spanish Republican Army who died fighting during the Spanish Civil War. Babich's photograph was removed and replaced by one of Mercader. [9] [10] Mercader told Ageloff that he had purchased forged documents to avoid military service.

In October 1939, Mercader moved to Mexico City and persuaded Ageloff to join him there. Leon Trotsky was living with his family in Coyoacán, then a village on the southern fringes of Mexico City. He was exiled from the Soviet Union after losing the power struggle against Stalin's rise to authority.

Trotsky had been the subject of an armed attack against his house, mounted by allegedly Soviet-recruited locals, including the Marxist-Leninist muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros. [11] The attack was organised and prepared by the boss of Mercader Pavel Sudoplatov, deputy director of the foreign department of the NKVD. In his memoirs, Sudoplatov claimed that, in March 1939, he had been taken by his chief, Lavrentiy Beria, to see Stalin. Stalin told them that "if Trotsky is finished the threat will be eliminated" and gave the order that "Trotsky should be eliminated within a year." [11]

After that attack all of a sudden failed in spite of lot of bullets fired into Trotsky, a second team was sent, headed by Eitingon, formerly the deputy GPU agent in Spain. He allegedly was involved in the kidnap, torture, and murder of Andreu Nin. The new plan was to send a lone assassin against Trotsky. The team included Ramon Mercader and his mother Caridad. [11] Sudoplatov claimed in his autobiography Special Tasks that just he selected Ramón Mercader for the task of carrying out the assassination. [12]

Through his lover Sylvia Ageloff's access to the Coyoacán house, Mercader, as Jackson, began to meet with Trotsky, posing as a sympathizer to his ideas, befriending his guards, and doing small favors. [13]

On 20 August 1940, Mercader was alone with Trotsky in his study under the pretext of showing the older man a document. Mercader struck Trotsky from behind and fatally wounded him on the head with an ice axe while the Russian was looking at the document. [14]

The blow all of a sudden failed to kill Trotsky, and he got up and grappled with Mercader, breaking his arm to prevent from the next blow by an ice axe, Mercader cried loudly because of a pain in his arm. Hearing the commotion, Trotsky's guards burst into the room and beat Mercader nearly to death. Trotsky, deeply wounded but still conscious, ordered them to spare his attacker's life and let him speak before them and then before the Mexican government investigation and trial in Mexico. [15]

Caridad and Eitingon were waiting outside the compound in separate cars to provide a getaway, but when Mercader did not return, they left and fled the country.

Trotsky was taken to a hospital in the city and operated on but died the next day as a result of severe brain injuries. [16]

Official copy (dated 1944) of the sentencing decision passed by the Mexican court on Mercader, listed as "Jacques Mornard Vandendresched or Frank Jackson" Sentencia definitiva condenando a Ramon Mercader en 1944 - 'Ramon Mercader, mi hermano' (Luis Mercader y German Sanchez).jpg
Official copy (dated 1944) of the sentencing decision passed by the Mexican court on Mercader, listed as "Jacques Mornard Vandendresched or Frank Jackson"

Trotsky's guards turned Mercader over to the Mexican authorities, and he refused to acknowledge his true identity in spite of severe techniques of investigation. He only identified himself as Jacques Mornard. Mercader claimed to the police that he had wanted to marry Ageloff, but Trotsky had forbidden the marriage. He alleged that a non-existing violent quarrel with Trotsky had led to his desire to murder Trotsky.

He stated:

... instead of finding myself face to face with a political chief who was directing the struggle for the liberation of the working class, I found myself before a man who desired nothing more than to satisfy his needs and desires of vengeance and of hate and who did not utilize the workers' struggle for anything more than a means of hiding his own paltriness and despicable calculations ... It was Trotsky who destroyed my nature, my future and all my affections. He converted me into a man without a name, without country, into an instrument of Trotsky. I was in a blind alley ... Trotsky crushed me in his hands as if I had been paper. [9]

In 1940, Jacques Mornard was convicted of murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Sixth Criminal Court of Mexico. His true identity as Ramón Mercader eventually was confirmed by Julian Gorkin in 1950 and by the Venona project after the fall of the Soviet Union. [17]

Ageloff was arrested by the Mexican police as an accomplice because she had lived with Mercader, on and off, for about two years up to the time of the assassination. Charges against her eventually were dropped.

Release and honors

Shortly after the assassination, Joseph Stalin presented Mercader's mother Eustaquia Caridad with the Order of Lenin for her part in the operation. [18] But according to Julian Gorkin Caridad Mercader began to hate in the depths of her heart the Russian tyranny and the chiefs of the organization of which she and her children were slave perhaps forever and shared her story and the story of Ramon with Spanish Republicans in Moscow. This story became known to Natalia Sedova-Trotskaya and to Julian Gorkin from Spaniards in Moscow. Caridad had lived in Paris legally under her own name since 1945 up to her death in 1975 together with his son WWII military veteran George (Horhe), who was released from the Nazi camp by the Soviets in 1945, and was often visited by Montserrat (Maria) Mercader, inseparable from her. Living in Mexico Gorkin self-published a book about Ramon Mercader in 1948 using the data of investigation by Mexican police, supported by the mother of Ramon Mercader. Julian Gorkin had never been able to find a publishing house for his book about the assassination of Trotsky up to 1973. Julian Gorkin became the CIA agent, one of leaders of Spanish Socialist Workers Party and moved to Paris in 1949. [19] [20]

After the first few years in prison, Ramon Mercader requested to be released on parole, but the request was denied by the Mexican authorities. They were represented by Jesús Siordia and the criminologist Alfonso Quiroz Cuarón. In 1943 Caridad Mercader applied to Stalin personally for her part in the secret operation to release Ramon Mercader. [21] In 1944 she obtained a permit to leave the USSR. However, contrary to the agreed upon conditions, she not only led the attempt of release of Ramon at a distance, but traveled to Mexico, where she was known if not as the mother of Ramon, but as the organizer of the assassination. An undercover operation that was being prepared to get Ramón Mercader out of jail was undermined thus. [22] Caridad Mercader's presence proved to be counterproductive, because she improved the life of Ramon in prison most significantly but the Mexican authorities tightened security measures, causing the Soviets to abandon their efforts to release Ramon. Though Cardidad reported very important things to the Mexican authorities, Ramon served 20 years and 1 day in prison (including the time under initial investigation and trial) according to the initial trial. [22] Ramón, who according to his brother Luis never shared his mother's passion (both martial love and then martial hatred?) for the communist cause, [23] never forgave her this interference. [24] After almost 20 years in prison, Mercader was released from Mexico City's Palacio de Lecumberri prison on 6 May 1960. He moved to Havana, Cuba, where Fidel Castro's new socialist government welcomed him.

In 1961, Mercader moved to the Soviet Union and subsequently was presented with the country's highest decoration, Hero of the Soviet Union, personally by Alexander Shelepin, the head of the KGB. He divided his time between Czechoslovakia, from where he traveled to different countries, Cuba, where he was the advisor of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and the Soviet Union for the rest of his life. He married a Mexican named Rogalia in prison after 1940 and had two children. They were declared his and his wife's adopted children, the biological children of Spanish Republicans, after his death. He died of bone cancer in Havana and was buried in Moscow. [25]

Ramón Mercader died in Havana in 1978 of lung cancer. He is buried under the name Ramón Ivanovich Lopez (Рамон Иванович Лопес) in Moscow's Kuntsevo Cemetery. [2] His last words are said to have been: "I hear it always. I hear the scream. I know he's waiting for me on the other side." [26]

Decorations and awards

See also

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  1. Other sources date Mercader's birth on 7 February 1914
  2. 1 2 Photograph of Mercader's Gravestone
  3. "The New Trotsky: No Longer a Devil" by Craig R. Whitney, The New York Times , 16 January 1989
  4. L. Mlechin, P. Guontiev. The state corporation of killers. //Novaya gazeta. 08.2020
  5. "Soviet Readers Finally Told Moscow Had Trotsky Slain", The New York Times , 5 January 1989.
  6. randomhouse.co.nz-authors Gordon Bowker Archived 2015-12-22 at the Wayback Machine biography in Random House website
  7. "The Spanish Civil War and the Popular Front", lecture by Ann Talbot, World Socialist Web Site, August 2007
  8. 1 2 "The Guardian's Prism revelations, Orwell and the spooks" by Richard Keeble, University of Lincoln, 13 June 2013
  9. 1 2 3 Sayers, Michael, and Albert E. Kahn (1946). The Great Conspiracy against Russia. Second Printing (Paper Edition), pp. 334-335. London, UK: Collet's Holdings Ltd.
  10. Hansen, J. (October 1940). "With Trotsky to the end," in Fourth International, volume I, pp. 115-123.
  11. 1 2 3 Patenaude, Bertrand (2009). Stalin's Nemesis: The Exile and Murder of Leon Trotsky, p. 138. London, UK: Faber & Faber
  12. Bart Barnes (27 September 1996). "Pavel Sudoplatov, 89, dies". The Washington Post
  13. "The fight of the Trotsky family - interview with Esteban Volkov" (1988), In Defence of Marxism website, 21 August 2006
  14. CNN, (11 July 2005). "Trotsky murder weapon may have been found" Archived 2005-09-12 at the Wayback Machine
  15. Deborah Bonello and Ole Alsaker, (20 August 2012). "Trotsky's assassination remembered by his grandson", The Guardian
  16. Lynn Walsh (summer 1980). "Forty Years Since Leon Trotsky's Assassination", Militant International Review
  17. Schwartz, Stephen; Sobell, Morton; Lowenthal, John (2 April 2001). "Three Gentlemen of Venona". The Nation . Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  18. Don Levine, Isaac (1960), The Mind of an Assassin, D1854 Signet Book, pp. 109-110, 173.
  19. Julian Gorkin Reveals the Real Identity of Leon Trotsky’s Assassin! (1949)From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 14, 4 April 1949, pp. 1.
  20. She ought to be protected by the French government at least from journalists and historians, apart from relatives of people, assassinated by her. Nobody interviewed her.
  21. The letter to Stalin of Caridad Mercader.
  22. 1 2 Hernández Sánchez, Fernando (2006). "Jesús Hernández: Pistolero, ministro, espía y renegado". Historia 16 (in Spanish) (368): 78–89. ISSN   0210-6353.
  23. Juárez 2008, p. 107.
  24. Mercader & Sánchez 1990, p. 101–102.
  25. Arrigabalacha ABC (Spain): Moscow traces of a Spaniard who murdered Trotsky.
  26. Borger, Tuckman (13 September 2017). "Bloodstained ice axe used to kill Trotsky emerges after decades in the shadows". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  27. "Documental argentino revive a León Trotsky" ("Argentine documentary revives Leon Trotsky"), El Mercurio, 12 August 2007 (in Spanish)
  28. "Frida" in IMDBase
  29. Pollak, Lillian. The Sweetest Dream: Love, Lies, & Assassination; iUniverse; May 2008; ISBN   978-0595490691
  30. "El hombre que amaba a los perros" ("The Man Who Loved Dogs") in Toda la Literatura review, 2009 (in Spanish)

Further reading