New Socialist government wants to convert mausoleum in Valley of the Fallen to place ‘of memory for all Spaniards’
Agence France Presse
Spain’s new Socialist government is determined to remove the remains of Francisco Franco from a vast mausoleum near Madrid and turn it into a place of “reconciliation” for a country still coming to terms with the dictator’s legacy.
“There already exists an agreement in parliament, what we are going to do as a government is look for the way to apply it,” the country’s deputy prime minister, Carmen Calvo, told reporters.
She was referring to a non-binding motion approved last year by 198 of the 350 lawmakers in Spain’s parliament calling for Franco’s remains to be removed from the massive Valley of the Fallen mausoleum 50km (30 miles) northwest of Madrid.
But the motion was ignored by the former conservative government of Mariano Rajoy.
Now the goal is to convert the site into a “place of reconciliation, of memory, for all Spaniards, and not of apology for the dictatorship,” said Socialist party spokesman Oscar Puente.
Prime minister Pedro Sanchez, who toppled Rajoy in a no-confidence vote on 1 June after a corruption scandal, has since made the question of what do with Franco’s remains a priority of his minority government.
Franco ruled Spain with an iron fist from the end of the country’s 1936-39 civil war until his death in 1975, when he was buried inside a basilica drilled into the side of a mountain at the Valley of the Fallen, one of Europe’s largest mass graves.
Built by Franco’s regime between 1941 and 1959 – in part by the forced labour of political prisoners – in the granite mountains of the Sierra de Guadarrama, the monument holds the remains of more than 30,000 dead from both sides of the civil war, which was triggered by Franco’s rebellion against an elected Republican government.
Franco, whose Nationalist forces defeated the Republicans in the war, dedicated the site to “all the fallen” of the conflict in an attempt at reconciliation, but only two graves are marked – those of Franco and Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, the founder of the far-right Falangist party which supported Franco.
Many on the left are repulsed by its existence, comparing it to a monument glorifying Hitler. Others, often on the right, insist the Valley of the Fallen is an innocuous piece of history whose critics have twisted its true meaning.