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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Spain begins process to exhume body of former dictator 

Cabinet approves decree to move the remains of fascist leader General Francisco Franco

General Francisco Franco, right, at the 1971 Victory Parade in Madrid. AFP
General Francisco Franco, right, at the 1971 Victory Parade in Madrid. AFP

Spain's socialist government on Friday approved a decree to exhume the remains of General Francisco Franco.

The Spanish general, who ruled over Spain as a military dictator for 36 years from 1939, is buried in a mausoleum in the outskirts of Madrid that is viewed as the only remaining monument in Europe to a fascist leader.

Backers of the project see removing the tomb as a first step towards turning the Valley of the Fallen, where some 34,000 victims of war are buried, into a site for memorial and national reconciliation. A UN-backed national commission in 2011 and parliament in 2017 both backed the move.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had told parliament when appointed in June that “a country that looks to its future needs to be at peace with its past”.

Tens of thousands of people died or were imprisoned during Franco’s rule in attempts to crush dissent before his death in 1975.

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Professor Paul Preston, a biographer of Franco, told the BBC on Friday that the move was an attempt by the fragile socialist government to garner support after suffering its first defeat last week over the 2019 budget. He also said it represented a “de-nazification process” the country has never had.

The measure requires approval by parliament where Mr Sanchez holds only one quarter of the seats, but it is unlikely to be blocked.

While the government can move the body away from the Valley of the Fallen, Franco’s family will decide where it is relocated. “My idea is that, wherever he is buried, it will also become a kind of shrine,” Mr Preston said.

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