Spain remembers “forgotten” past

LAST UPDATED: 11 Oct, 2007 @ 14:18
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MORE than 30 years after his death, Francisco Franco’s dictatorship is a step closer to being officially condemned.

After a draft was agreed last week in parliament, the Law of Historical Memory is expected to be heard in Congress on October 17, before coming into effect on October 30.

Under it, Franco’s victims during and after the three-year Civil War will be recognised for the first time since the conflict ended in 1939.

Arbitrary sentences handed down by Francoist military courts will also be declared illegitimate and town halls and state institutions will have to remove all symbols relating to Franco’s dictatorship, including a name change for some streets and plazas and statues taken down.

The bill, which was stalled for several months after political parties haggled over its wording, has divided Spain and brought to an end the pacto de olvido, a tacit agreement to “forget” the dictatorship.

In a recent poll, 50 per cent of the population expressed its dissatisfaction with the legislation while the conservative Partido Popular (PP) claimed it “reopens old wounds.”

“This legislation will generate problems and divisions and bring to mind events everyone wants to forget,” PP leader Mariano Rajoy said explaining his party’s opposition to the Law of Historical Memory.

The socialist PSOE Government made concessions to the draft in its bid to have the bill ready for the current parliament, giving recognition to the abuse Catholics in Catalunya received at the hands of Republicans.

Some leftist groups believe the law does not go far enough, in that it fails to criminalise Franco.

Representatives from the Izquierda Union (IU) have slammed party leader Gaspar Llamazares for backing a “decaffeinated” law.

“The laws content is weak, decaffeinated. It laughs in the face of the many victims of Franco,” Andalucía IU spokesman, Antonio Romero, said.

However, its supporters feel a defining moment has been reached in contemporary Spanish history as the horrors of the three-year conflict are faced.

“We have reached an important moment,” said Government spokesman Diego Lopez Garrido. “The law will provide definitive reparation and recognition for those who suffered during the Civil War.”

The death of Francisco Franco in 1975 paved the way for the return of democracy in Spain following 30 years of dictatorship.

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