EXHUMATION OF FRANCO

PM: Franco’s presence at the Valley of the Fallen was “an affront to Spanish democracy”

Pedro Sánchez today applauded the exhumation of the Spanish dictator and said that society has taken “one more step toward reconciliation”

Pedro Sánchez speaks to the press on Thursday after the exhumation of Franco.
Pedro Sánchez speaks to the press on Thursday after the exhumation of Franco.PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

The exhumation of Spain’s late dictator Francisco Franco from the Valley of the Fallen “ends a moral affront: the exaltation of a dictator in a public place,” said the caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party (PSOE), at a news conference on Thursday afternoon.

The Spanish leader said that by reburying Franco at the family crypt inside El Pardo-Mingorrubio cemetery, “one more step toward reconciliation” has been taken by Spanish society.

Today’s Spain is the result of forgiveness, but it cannot be the result of forgetting Caretaker PM Pedro Sánchez

“It took us a long time to get rid of a repressive regime. And it’s taken us nearly as long to remove its creator’s remains from a place of public tribute,” said Sánchez, speaking from La Moncloa, the seat of the Spanish government, just hours after Franco’s casket was transported from the Valley of the Fallen to the cemetery in the north of the Madrid region.

The Socialist leader said that having Franco in the Valley of the Fallen, a popular destination for tourists and far-right nostalgics, “was more than anachronistic and anomalous: it was an affront to Spanish democracy.”

Sánchez pledged to carry out Franco’s exhumation when he reached power in early June 2018 on the back of a successful no-confidence vote against then-PM Mariano Rajoy of the Popular Party (PP). But the project ran into 16 months of administrative and legal hurdles as Franco’s family fought the move. In September, the Supreme Court ruled that the exhumation could go ahead.

It took us a long time to get rid of a repressive regime. And it’s taken us nearly as long to remove its creator’s remains from a place of public tribute

Caretaker PM Pedro Sánchez

While left-leaning parties celebrated the move, right-wing groups have criticized it, claiming it reopens old wounds. The Franco family released a statement saying that the Spanish government had “consummated the desecration of the tomb of our grandfather Francisco Franco with a serious violation of our fundamental rights.”

“Today’s Spain is the result of forgiveness, but it cannot be the result of forgetting,” said Sánchez on Thursday, addressing the right-wing’s arguments that the past should be left alone. He also alluded to the nearly 34,000 victims of the Civil War (1936-1939) and subsequent dictatorship who lie buried at the Valley of the Fallen, and a third of whom are still unidentified.

“It is an infamy that will have to be redressed sooner or later as well. Today’s Spain is indebted to those families,” said Sánchez, who is facing a repeat national election on November 10 after he failed to form a government following an earlier, inconclusive vote in April.

English version by Susana Urra.

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