MADRID – The Spanish government said on Thursday it would not allow the remains of brutal former military dictator Gen. Francisco Franco to be moved from the triumphalist mausoleum where they now lie to Madrid’s cathedral, as Franco’s descendants have demanded.
The Socialist executive said it would prevent Franco’s final resting place from being a public space open to pilgrimage by nostalgic far-right elements and would take any measures and use any resources deemed necessary to impede the crypt in the capital’s Almudena cathedral from hosting the corpse of a despot who came to power thanks to the military backing of Nazi Germany’s leader Adolf Hitler and Fascist Italy’s ruler Benito Mussolini.
“The government of Spain will not allow a dictator to continue occupying a public space to be exalted, and it will do so in accordance to Spanish legislation and the resolutions passed by the European Parliament,” said Isabel Celaa, Spain’s education minister and cabinet spokesperson, in a press conference in Madrid.
Franco is set to be exhumed from the Valley of the Fallen, a colossal located in the mountainous countryside outside Madrid that was built by Republican political prisoners after the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).
The decision to disinter his remains was made after the lower house of parliament passed a decree on Sept. 13 mandating their transfer from the mausoleum, which is considered the only state-endorsed mass pilgrimage site for fascists remaining in Europe after the end of World War II.
Celaa said the exhumation process was already at an advanced stage after having requested official reports with experts’ recommendations.
“This phase will be completed within a month,” she explained. “The year 2019 will kick off without Spain having a dictator that can be publicly exalted.”
The ruling Socialist Party planning to introduce several amendments to the landmark Law of Historical Memory – which was passed in 2007 under the auspices of then-Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero – to clarify that Franco shall not be inhumed at the cathedral and to explicitly ban the public glorification of the Francoist regime.
Franco’s grandchildren (his closest surviving relatives) oppose this move and have described it as an imposition by the State and have questioned its constitutionality, as they insist he should be buried inside the cathedral’s crypt with a grand ceremony, including military honors, because he was once Head of State (albeit one who rose to power after a failed coup d’etat that led the country to a devastating civil war whose consequences are still felt today throughout Spanish society).
The United Nations has repeatedly reprimanded Spain for not complying with its human rights obligations when it comes to restoring justice to Republican victims of the Civil War and failing to end the impunity enjoyed by officials who committed crimes against humanity during the dictatorship’s so-called White Terror, which saw the execution of between 200,000-400,000 of Franco’s opponents, according to estimates by various historians.