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Straperlo was a business which tried to introduce in Spain in the 1930s a fraudulent roulette which could be controlled electrically with the push of a button. The ensuing scandal was one of the causes of the fall of the Republican government and the polarization of the parliament, which led to the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939).


The name had its origin in the names of the Dutch partners, one of whom was Daniel Strauss, but sources differ on the exact name or names of the others. Some sources say there was just another partner called Jules Perel. Others state that there was a third female partner called Lowann who was the wife of Strauss,[1] but Paul Preston holds Perlowitz as the second partner.[2]


In 1934, Rafael Salazar Alonso was a rightist Minister of Interior in Spain. He was one of several prominent Radical Party figures to accept bribes in order to legalize the fixed roulette, namely, a gold watch and 100,000 pesetas (£35,000 in present value).[3] Other high-ranking officials in his Ministry also accepted them. Still, Salazar Alonso considering it too small a figure, demanded more, eventually arranging a police raid into the Grand Casino Kursaal of San Sebastián on the inauguration day.

In order to get back at him, the inventors leaked documents on the matter to president Niceto Alcalá-Zamora.[4] A complementary version notes that since they had invested a lot of money in the venture, they tried to recover it by blackmailing the prime minister, Alejandro Lerroux, because his nephew was involved in the business and in the trafficking of influence. Lerroux refused to get involved and Strauss denounced the case to the president of the republic, Niceto Alcala Zamora who made it public.

The matter was debated at the Spanish parliament in October 1935, where Salazar Alonso was exonerated 140 against 137, thanks to the CEDA's support. Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera went on to shout, "Long live the Straperlo!" However, the Radical Republican Party was doomed and Salazar Alonso's reputation over, despite hanging onto his position as mayor of Madrid.[5]


The reaction of the parties in the opposition caused the fall of Lerroux and his Radical Republican Party government and the call for new elections, won by the Popular Front and supported by the Communists, amid great instability. It ultimately resulted in the coup d'état promulgated by General Francisco Franco's Nationalists in July 1936.

Spanish language usage

After the scandal and more so after the Spanish Civil War the word was incorporated as "estraperlo" into the Spanish language with the meaning of any business which is illegal or corrupt. Most often it refers to smuggling.[6]

See also


  1. Estraperlo in the Diccionario crítico etimológico castellano e hispánico, by Joan Corominas and José Antonio Pascual, Madrid: Editorial Gredos, 1989. ISBN 84-249-1363-9.
  2. Paul Preston (2013). The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain. London, UK: HarperCollins. p. 102. ISBN 978-0-00-638695-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Preston, Paul (2013), 102
  4. Preston, Paul (2013), 102
  5. Preston, Paul (2013), 102
  6. estraperlo in the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española.


  • José Carlos García Rodríguez El Caso Strauss. El escándalo que precipitó el final de la II República Editorial Akrón, Astorga (León), 2008 ISBN 978-84-936725-0-8.
  • Marc Fontbona, El estraperlo, una ruleta política, "La Aventura de la historia" (Madrid), núm. 120 (Octubre 2008), 36-40.
  • Paul Preston (2013). The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain. London, UK: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-00-638695-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>