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Franco exhumation: Spain’s Supreme Court backs move to cemetery

Valley of the Fallen - 23 September

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Franco was buried alongside tens of thousands of civil war victims

Spain’s Supreme Court has ruled that the remains of dictator Francisco Franco should be exhumed.

It backed the Socialist government’s plan to move the remains from a state mausoleum to a less controversial site – a cemetery where his wife is buried.

An appeal by Franco’s family against the exhumation was rejected.

The issue has divided opinion in Spain, which remains haunted by the Franco era. He won the 1930s civil war and went on to rule Spain until 1975.

He lies in a huge mausoleum near the capital Madrid, called the Valley of the Fallen, alongside tens of thousands of civil war dead.

Many revile the complex as a monument to the triumph of fascism, and it has become a shrine for the far right.

The government approved the exhumation in August. It plans to re-bury Franco next to his wife in the El Pardo cemetery north of Madrid where various other politicians are interred.

Many descendents of Franco’s victims support the move.

“The idea that people who were killed by Franco’s troops are buried together with Franco, it’s very absurd, and they’re still glorifying him as if he was the saviour of Spain,” Silvia Navarro, whose great uncle died in 1936, told the BBC.

But the family, who would rather he was not moved at all, wanted him to lie in a family crypt in the Almudena Cathedral – right in the centre of the capital.

Media captionWhy Spain’s government wants to exhume Gen Franco’s remains

The government says the former dictator should not be placed anywhere where he could be glorified.

The controversy comes at a time of political crisis in Spain, as the country prepares for its fourth general election in four years, on 10 November.

How has Spain dealt with the Franco era?

Unlike in Mussolini’s Italy and Nazi Germany, defeated in World War Two, Spain’s transition to democracy in 1975 was more gradual.

Though democracy is well established now, many believe the country has never faced up to its fascist past.

There was an unwritten “pact of forgetting” during the transition.

An Amnesty Law adopted in 1977 prevents any criminal investigation into the Franco years.

Statues of Franco were removed and many streets were renamed, to erase obvious signs of the fascist past.

A Historical Memory Law, passed in 2007 by the socialist government at the time, recognised the war victims on both sides and provided some help for surviving victims of Franco’s dictatorship and their families.

But the work to locate and rebury thousands of civil war dead has been slow and controversial.

More than 100,000 victims of the conflict, and the ferocious repression carried out afterwards, are still missing.

Who was Francisco Franco?

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  • Becomes youngest general in Spain in 1926, aged 33
  • After election of leftist Popular Front in 1936, Franco and other generals launch revolt, sparking three-year civil war
  • Helped by Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, Franco wins civil war in 1939 and establishes a dictatorship, proclaiming himself head of state – “El Caudillo”
  • Franco keeps tight grip on power until his death in 1975, after which Spain becomes a democracy

Franco exhumation: Spain’s Supreme Court backs move to cemetery

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