Spain moves to rebury Franco victims at mausoleum

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Spain’s government is to carry out a census of the tens of thousands of civil war victims buried at the Valley of the Fallen.

Madrid – Spain is to identify tens of thousands of civil war victims interred alongside dictator Francisco Franco at his mausoleum near Madrid so families can have them reburied.

Spain's socialist government late Wednesday backed a congressional initiative to carry out a census of the bodies, many of which are Franco opponents from the 1936-39 civil war.

Historians estimate the mass graves at the Valley of the Fallen, the vast underground mausoleum some 60 kilometres (80 miles) from Madrid, contain the remains of between 40,000 and 60,000 Franco supporters and the Republicans who opposed them.

The mausoleum was built between 1940 and 1958 on General Franco's orders. But lacking enough bodies of his own supporters to fill it, his regime ordered that remains from the mass graves of Republican soldiers and sympathisers should be transferred there.

The government's census, to be carried out within six months, would allow the families of the victims to exhume the bodies of their loved ones and rebury them.

The government would provide financial help and "speed up the transfer of the remains when families or representatives request it," according to the proposed amendment to a law, which was opposed by the conservative opposition Popular Party.

A group that seeks to identify the victims of Franco-era killings welcomed the move but repeated its call for Franco's remains to be removed as well and the mausoleum turned into a civil war memorial.

"It is regrettable that another major symbolic and political problem is not being tackled, which is the existence of a monument that celebrates a military coup leader who led a bloody dictatorship," said the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory.

"It is a lack of respect for the victims of the dictatorship who are obliged to pay taxes" for the mausoleum. "The Valley of the Fallen should be dedicated to the memory of the thousands who built it."

Some 15,000 prisoners from the losing left-wing Republican side in the war were made to work on the construction of the mausoleum, often under harsh and dangerous conditions.

The mausoleum, the giant cross of which is visible for kilometres (miles) around, also contains the body of Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the Falange, the party that provided the ideological basis for Franco's regime. He was shot by Republicans in 1936.

On 20 November 1975, Franco's supporters traditionally held a mass for the dictator on the anniversary of his death. But the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero banned any sort of political assembly at Franco's tomb in its 2007 Law on Historical Memory.

AFP / Expatica

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