Controversial biographical dictionary gets 100,000-euro grant

Polemical entries, such as that of dictator Francisco Franco, have not been altered

The entry for Franco in the controversial biographical dictionary.
The entry for Franco in the controversial biographical dictionary. SANTI BURGOS (EL PAÍS)

The controversial Spanish Biographical Dictionary from the Royal History Academy (RAH) is set to receive a generous 100,000-euro government grant in the 2013 budget, despite failing to rectify polemical mistakes in a number of entries.

Last year, Congress approved a non-legislative motion ordering the freezing of public subsidies to the project while it refused to rectify serious errors in several entries, principally those for certain 20th-century figures. The most significant of these was the one for former dictator Francisco Franco by historian Luis Suárez, a former top-ranking official in the Franco administration, who described the dictator’s regime in benevolent terms.

The Ministry for Education, Culture and Sport justified the awarding of the money on the grounds of “the significance and relevance of the work,” and its “permanent nature, which obliges its constant updating.”

Responding to questions from the Socialist group in Congress, the ministry said that a committee was “revising and improving the controversial entries in the Dictionary” and said that its work would be included in an addendum.

Pressure on the RAH to amend the errors in the 50-volume compendium has all-but evaporated since the Popular Party came into power at the end of last year. Education Minister José Ignacio Wert previously ignored the parliamentary motion in the 2012 budget by awarding the project a 163,790-euro grant, despite the RAH not correcting anything in the work.

At the time, the opposition asked Wert for explanations and in July he released the RAH report on the work of the group created to supervise and correct the project to Socialist education committee spokesman Mario Bedera.

Lack of transparency

The minister told Congress that the RAH would create additional material for 10 entries, partially revise another six and tone down a further 30 entries on assorted military, political and religious figures. However, exactly what those entries would be and who would make the amendments, the RAH has kept tightly under wraps.

 “We imagine the one for Franco will be among them, but we don’t know,” said Bedera. “There is a tremendous lack of transparency in this. [...] It is not enough to say they are going to be changed because we don’t know in what way or by whom.”

The Socialist group on Friday presented an amendment to the 2013 budget demanding the 100,000-euro grant be withdrawn and allocated to associations representing parents of students.

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