Barcelona removes last Franco-era statue

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Spanish authorities on Sunday removed the last major statue in Barcelona containing symbols of the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, 35 years after his death.

The statue, depicting a woman standing with one arm holding a laurel raised over her head, was erected in a central square of Spain's second-largest city in 1940 in honour of the victory by Franco's forces during the country's 1936-39 civil war.

A crane lifted the statue off its pedestal onto the back of a truck to applause from many of the about 200 mostly elderly people who gathered to watch the operation. Some had tears in their eyes.

"This is a moment of democratic normalisation. There is nothing to remember with pride from that victory, which was a great defeat for Catalan culture and institutions," Barcelona Mayor Jordi Hereu told reporters after the statue was removed.

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

Under his regime the use of Catalan outside the home was banned as were street and shop signs in the language, expressions of Catalan culture were forbidden and the Catalonian regional government was abolished.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's government passed a law in 2007 which requires that all statues, plaques and other symbols of Franco's dictatorship be removed from public buildings.

© 2011 AFP

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