The dictator Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain with an iron fist from 1939 until his death in 1975, was exhumed on Thursday from his mausoleum and re-entered in a cemetery near Madrid, 44 years after the end of his fascist regime. Arriving by helicopter, his embalmed remains were reburied alongside those of his wife in the more discreet the cemetery of Mingorrubio, in the north of Madrid. Gathered near the cemetery, about 200 people nostalgic for the old regime sang the hymn of the fascist Falange party, which was a pillar of the regime of the dictator who won the bloody Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
At the end of the morning, the dictator’s coffin came out of the imposing basilica carved into the rock of the “Valle de los Caidos” mausoleum, carried by eight members of his family, including his great-grandson Louis de Bourbon, a distant cousin of King Felipe VI of Spain who is considered by the Legitimists as the pretender to the throne of France.
Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez made the transfer of the remains of the exhumation a priority when he came to power in June 2018, so that Franco’s mausoleum, could no longer be a “place of apology” of Fascism.
It puts an end to a “moral affront” to an “anomaly for a European democracy,” said Mr Sanchez in a solemn address. Originally planned to take place in the summer of 2018, the operation was delayed by more than a year by the successive lawsuits of the dictator’s descendants. Ordered by Franco in 1940 to celebrate his “glorious Catholic Crusade” against the Republicans “without God”, the construction of the “Valle de los Caídos” (“The valley of those who have fallen”) lasted almost 20 years and was carried out by thousands of political prisoners.
The monumental complex is overlooked by a cross 150 meters high, visible for tens of kilometers around. Since his death, his tomb, located at the foot of the altar of the basilica, has remained adorned with fresh flowers. The government acted on the basis of a vote in 2017 of the Spanish Parliament demanding the exhumation of Franco, which had remained a dead letter because of the opposition of the conservative government of Mariano Rajoy. Mr. Rajoy publicly boasted of not spending one euro to enforce this law aimed at removing the remains of the dictatorship, identifying bodies thrown into mass graves and rehabilitating the memory of republicans condemned under Francoism.
“Spain today is the fruit of forgiveness but it cannot be the product of oblivion,” said Sanchez.