Franco's PNV papers return to the Basque Country

Boxes of documents seized by dictatorship delivered back to region's culture department

Fifteen boxes filled with archive material arrived on Tuesday at the department of culture of the Basque regional government, in Vitoria. The delivery was historically significant, because the boxes contained documents that were seized from the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) under Franco's dictatorship. Until Tuesday morning, those papers had been sitting inside the Documentary Center for Historical Memory, a state-run archive located in Salamanca.

The return of the Basque documents is a side-effect of a decision by the administration of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to send historical material from the same period back to Catalonia, whose government had been requesting it for years. That delivery, in the spring of 2006, was strongly disputed in Salamanca, where thousands of people, with support from the conservative opposition Popular Party (PP), protested what they saw as the government's deference to Catalan wishes. Tuesday's shipment to Vitoria, however, caused no controversy.

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The Basque government now has a month to examine the material, ensure copies of it are returned to Salamanca for research purposes, and hand it over to the PNV, the party which ruled the Basque region from the early 1980s up until the 2009 elections.

Years of exile

The PNV also headed a brief Government of Euskadi between 1936 and 1937, after which the regional leader fled following Franco's advance, and unofficially remained head of the Basque government-in-exile until 1960. Franco's death in 1975 paved the way for democracy and a return to a level of regional self-rule. The documents reflect the inner workings of the party through minutes of meetings, assembly records, lists of party members and private correspondence.

In a press conference, the PNV spokesman in Congress, Josu Erkoreka, said the archive material includes several personal letters between that first Basque premier, José Antonio Aguirre, the prominent nationalist Juan de Ajuriaguerra and the Republican minister Manuel de Irujo.

Erkoreka noted, however, that the material only pertains to the PNV, and that another 246 containing documents about the Basque government still remain in Salamanca, and must be restored.

The <i>lehendakari</i> José Antonio Aguirre, after the liberation of Paris in 1944.
The lehendakari José Antonio Aguirre, after the liberation of Paris in 1944.ARCHIVO DEL NACIONALISMO VASCO

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