Latin America

Family seeks justice in Mexico over Spanish Civil War crimes

Anais Huerta wants Mexican prosecutors to investigate the 1936 murder of her great-uncle

Anais Huerta, whose great-uncle was allegedly murdered by Falangists in 1936.
Anais Huerta, whose great-uncle was allegedly murdered by Falangists in 1936.

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The family of a Spanish union leader believed executed by Falangist forces during Spain’s 1936-39 Civil War has filed a complaint with the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (PRG) over his disappearance.

The complaint was presented by Anais Huerta, a Mexico-based filmmaker whose great-uncle was allegedly killed by right-wing forces in the northern Spanish city of Valladolid in 1936. She was accompanied by her lawyers and representatives of Amnesty International and other human rights groups.

Félix Llorente Gutiérrez was a railroad worker, union leader and member of International Red Aid, a social service organization established by Communist International in the early 20th century.

“No one in Spain has investigated crimes committed by the Franco regime,” said Huerta in an interview. “We learned from other families that similar cases would be dropped so we contacted Amnesty and they told us that this was a good option.”

“No one in Spain has investigated crimes committed by the Franco regime”

In 2010, Buenos Aires Judge María Servini de Cubria opened an inquiry into crimes committed during the Civil War (1936-1939) and the subsequent Franco regime (1936-1975) after a group of Spanish families were unsuccessful in seeking justice in Spain.

The Spanish courts told the families that the statute of limitations had run out on many of the charges.

Judge Servini de Cubria issued international arrest warrants for around 20 former officials who served in the Franco dictatorship. She also asked Spanish authorities to allow the exhumation of mass graves where the bodies of victims shot during the Civil War are thought to be buried.

“My father began to research the history of his uncle in the 1990s,” Huerta said. “I started afterwards and found testimonies from wardens of jails in Valladolid and Medina de Campo – where they took Félix – from historians in the area, and from experts in historical memory,” she said.

The complaint contains 25 filings that support the Huerta Llorente family’s version of what happened to Félix Llorente on the night of August 15, 1936 when the Falange began moving a large number of prisoners held in Medina del Campo. Félix Llorente had been incarcerated for about a month since the start of the Civil War.

“The Nationalists controlled Valladolid from the beginning so the Falange did whatever it wanted”

Valladolid was not hit as hard by the war as other provinces, according to Huerta.

“The Nationalists controlled the area from the beginning so the Falange did whatever it wanted.”

Between 40 and 45 people were executed that day, including Félix Llorente.

Esteban Beltrán, director of Amnesty International Spain, said the Mexican authorities could either accept Huerta’s petition, reject it, or, in the extreme, act as if they had not received it and avoid making a decision.

If Mexican prosecutors agree to open an investigation, they can petition the Spanish government for cooperation.

“Spain has not cooperated with Argentina,” said Beltrán. “They claim that the Argentinean judge has no jurisdiction here because crimes committed by the Franco regime are already being investigated in Spain.”

But Anais Huerta and Amnesty International hope the evidence they have presented – which the family has been gathering for years – will help make the case stick.

English version by Martin Delfín.

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