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Article sympathetic to Franco sparks row in Spain

Published on 01/06/2011

The publication of an article in Spain sympathic to dictator Francisco Franco in a biographical dictionary has caused uproar and sparked unease in the Socialist government which financed the work.

The Dictionary of Spanish Biography, a work of 50 volumes overseen by the Royal Academy of History, said Franco “instituted a regime that was authoritarian but not totalitarian.”

Francoism “unified … the political forces that backed it, Falangism, Traditionalism and the Right.”

The general “had to tie himself” with the fascist regime of Mussolini and Hitler’s Nazis, faced with the “hostility of France and of Russia.”

Spain’s leading daily El Pais said the author, Luis Suarez, is “openly sympathetic” to Franco, whom he never describes as a “dictator” but just “the general” or “head of state.”

“The result is a nice hagiographic article on the dictator” by a historian who ignores “the repression” led by the Franco regime against the Republicans following the 1936-39 Civil War, the paper said.

The article and others in the official dictionary, financed by the education ministry, have sparked unease in the government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who first pushed, in 2007, for the rehabilitation of the Franco era’s victims.

Culture Minister Angeles Gonzalez Sinde urged the Academy to correct some of the biographies “which do not correspond to reality.”

Some have even called for a withdrawal of certain volumes. Leftist Senator Joan Saura put forward a motion demanding a “public rectification” by the Academy “for having rewritten history” and “exalted” Franco.

Historians have estimated that half a million people were killed during the civil war sparked by Franco’s insurgency against the democratically elected left-wing Republican government.

A brutal wave of repression followed the Nationalists’ victory as Franco sought to consolidate power.

Franco ruled Spain after the end of the war in 1939 until his death on November 20, 1975, at the age of 82.