Franco's tomb defaced in Spain with red dove painting

Madrid (AFP) –


A Spanish artist on Wednesday painted a red dove along with the slogan "For Freedom" on the tomb of late dictator Francisco Franco at the vast mausoleum near Madrid where he is buried.

The incident comes amid a debate in Spain over where Franco's embalmed body should be relocated after it is exhumed from the controversial site as planned by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's socialist government.

In video images broadcast on Spanish TV the man can be seen being escorted away by a security guard after he knelt down and scrawled red ink on Franco's tomb at an imposing basilica carved into a mountain-face just 50 kilometres (30 miles) outside the Spanish capital.

"For freedom and the reconciliation of all Spaniards," the man, identified by Spanish media as Enrique Terneiro, a sculptor and video artist known for his provocative acts, could be heard shouting.

A spokeswoman for Spain's Guardia Civil police force confirmed that a man had been "identified" and was being investigated for having painted on Franco's tomb at the grandiose Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen) mausoleum.

Terneiro, 49, told daily newspaper El Mundo he painted the red dove on the tomb as a "protest action" for the "freedom" which was "stolen" from the generation of his parents and grandparents.

"Its my little grain of sand, I hope it alleviates the pain of the losers of the civil war," he added.

Franco ruled Spain with an iron fist from the end of the country's 1936-39 civil war until his death in 1975.

The Valley of the Fallen 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.

Sanchez, who came to power in June, wants to move Franco's remains to a more discreet spot that followers would not find easy to visit to pay homage.

Spanish lawmakers in September approved a decree authorising the exhumation.

But Franco's family, which opposes the exhumation, wants to inter his remains in a family crypt at Madrid's central Almudena Cathedral next to the royal palace.