THE SPANISH government announced on Thursday that it is to strip former dictator Francisco Franco of the Medal of Merit in Labour, an award that was granted to people who had excelled in the performance of a job or profession. The medal is also to be revoked for nine other figures from the dictatorship. 

The move comes under the new Democratic Memory Law, legislation that was recently approved by the Socialist Party-led government and seeks to address some of the open wounds that remain from the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and subsequent Franco dictatorship. 

The new law contemplates the revision and withdrawal of such decorations and prizes when the recipient is known to have been a part of the repressive Franco regime. 

Speaking on Thursday, Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister and Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz brandished the so-called “Golden Book of Labour”, which includes the recipients of the prize. 

“All you need to do is to flick through these pages to see, with astonishment, that we have taken too long to take this step,” she said, in comments reported by Spanish daily El País. 

“It’s indefensible for certain names linked to repression and to the deaths of so many people to remain in a list of honour such as this one,” she continued. “It’s an anomaly, one that would be incomprehensible in a democratic context such as ours, and which in Germany or in Italy, for example, could never be seen.” 

As well as Franco, the other former officials to lose their award include General Juan Yagüe, who was known as the “butcher of Badajoz” for the number of casualties he left behind in the Extremaduran city during the Civil War, and Cardinal Enrique Pla, who was an archbishop when the war broke out in 1936 and defended the conflict as a necessary crusade.

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