HISTORICAL MEMORY

Franco’s family requests military funeral honors at his exhumation

In a letter to the executive, the relatives of the late dictator say he is entitled to a gun salute and other shows of respect just like any other head of government

The Valley of the Fallen, near the Spanish capital.
The Valley of the Fallen, near the Spanish capital.JAVIER BARBANCHO / REUTERS

The descendants of Francisco Franco want the government to hold military funeral honors for the late Spanish dictator when his body is transferred from its current resting place in the Valley of the Fallen, outside Madrid, to a cemetery in the capital.

The family expects a ceremony involving an honor detail and a band

The family lawyer, Luis Felipe Utrera-Molina, said that the Franco family will officially make the request by letter this week. EL PAÍS has seen the contents of this letter, dated October 14, which reminds the executive of its “pledge to respect the dignity” of the mortal remains during their transfer to El Pardo-Mingorrubio cemetery. The exhumation is expected to take place before October 25, according to a government decision approved by the Cabinet on Friday.

Moving Franco’s body out of the Valley of the Fallen, a monument located near the monastery of El Escorial, has been a signature project of the caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party (PSOE), and it was approved by a majority of lawmakers inside Congress on September 13, 2018.

Last week the Supreme Court issued a decision unblocking the remaining legal challenges

But the project has been delayed by legal hurdles placed by Franco’s family, who wished to keep the body in the Valley. At one point, his relatives said they would agree to move Franco’s remains, but only to La Almudena cathedral, a major tourist attraction in the heart of Madrid.

Last week the Supreme Court issued a decision unblocking the remaining legal challenges and paving the way for the exhumation. Prior Santiago Cantera, the leader of the religious community that lives in the Valley, has agreed to hold a special Mass after having previously stated that he would not allow workers to enter the basilica to open Franco’s grave.

A gun salute

The letter reminds the government of its obligation to “strictly follow the law,” which contemplates military funeral honors for former heads of government if relatives request them. In the Franco family’s view, the former dictator is eligible as he headed the government between 1936 and 1973, and it expects a ceremony involving an honor detail and a band to play the national anthem, present arms and perform a gun salute. The Franco family also wants the coffin to be covered with a Spanish flag while it is being transferred, and a Mass to be held during the reburial.

English version by Susana Urra.

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