Spanish academy admits Franco bio may need fixing

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Spain's Royal Historical Academy said Thursday it may issue some rapid corrections after a favourable biography of General Francisco Franco was received with outrage.

More than 12 years in the making, the academy's 50-volume Spanish Biographical Dictionary provoked a storm of criticism over several entries, particularly one seen as being sympathetic to Franco.

Spain's leading daily El Pais said the entry's author Luis Suarez was "openly sympathetic to Franco".

The biography never uses the word "dictator", argues Franco's regime was "authoritarian but not totalitarian", and says he was forced into teaming up with German and Italian fascist leaders.

"In recent days, legitimate criticisms have emerged of aspects of some specific entries of figures who, because of their historical proximity and role, inevitably generate debate among experts and broader society," the academy said in a statement.

"There may doubtlessly be a subset of entries that require, in view of the debate, a historical and editorial revision that may need to be incorporated quickly into the digital edition and later paper editions."

In its climbdown, the academy said all dictionary entries are signed and that in each volume there is a rider explaining that the authors themselves are responsible for their own contributions.

The academy said the dictionary brings together more than 40,000 biographies from the sixth century BC to the 20th century AD.

When deciding how to complete it in a reasonable but rapid timeframe, the academy opted for "the principles of intellectual freedom and of responsibility of the authors," it said.

El Pais said the choice of Suarez as author led to a work in which Franco is described as a man who "unified ... the political forces that backed it, Falangism, traditionalism and the right."

The dictator "had to tie himself" with the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler's Nazis, faced with the "hostility of France and of Russia," the biography says.

"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, El Pais said.

The disputed entries in a biographical dictionary, financed by the education ministry, 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."

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.

© 2011 AFP

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