A Coruña mayor says no need to strip local Franco favorite of title

Lieutenant-Colonel José Millán Astray's title raises debate as legal decisions are still contested

The local government of A Coruña, run by Carlos Negreira of the conservative Popular Party (PP), vows to obey a court decision ordering the removal of a statue of Lieutenant-Colonel José Millán Astray, a friend and collaborator of former dictator General Francisco Franco's, but denies the need to strip the military official of his title of favorite son, which A Coruña granted him 14 years before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

What city officials failed to mention is that there is another, previous court ruling that is contradictory, in that it says that Lieutenant-Colonel Millán-Astray should be stripped of all honors, including the favorite son title.

This less publicized ruling was handed down in May, two weeks before the local elections that wrested power from the Socialists and handed it to the Popular Party.

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Public knowledge of this other court decision stirred controversy among opposition councilors, who accused Mayor Negreira of being complacent about an early figure of the Franco regime, whom the mayor once defended as "a true-blue Coruña man."

The row has its origins in the 2007 Historical Memory Law, a piece of legislation promoted by the Socialist government. This law meant to offer moral redress to the victims of the war and subsequent dictatorship, and ordered the removal of all public tributes to Franco-era figures from the streets. The law has since been criticized by the left for not going far enough, and by the right for being allegedly biased against Franco's crimes while ignoring Republican ones.

The removal of the huge bronze statue of Millán Astray, who was also the founder of the Spanish Legion in 1920, was appealed by the Association of Veterans of La Legión, but their appeal was struck down in both courts.

However, while one local court said the official should also be stripped of his favorite son title ? granted him in 1922 for founding La Legión- a later decision by another court said that Millán Astray should not lose his title because it was given to him 14 years before the Civil War, and therefore did not fall under the precepts of the Historical Memory Law, which concerns itself with the war and postwar years.

Statue dedicated to Millán Astray in A Coruña.
Statue dedicated to Millán Astray in A Coruña.
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