Spain to exhume Franco's remains in June


Madrid (AFP)

Spain said Friday it will move the remains of late dictator Francisco Franco from an opulent mausoleum to a state-run pantheon, after months of wrangling between the government and his family.

The move has long been talked about by sympathisers of the left-leaning government but fiercely resisted by Franco's heirs and many on the right.

It revives old tensions from Spain's civil war in the 1930s and the subsequent four decades of Franco's rule.

"The reburial of Franco's remains will take place on the morning of June 10," Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said.

She said the body will be taken to the Mingorrubio-El Pardo state pantheon in a cemetery north of Madrid, where Franco's wife is already buried.

Franco's tomb currently lies in a huge hillside mausoleum belonging to the Catholic Church in the Valley of the Fallen west of Madrid, where it draws visits from tourists and demonstrations by right-wing sympathisers.

The crucifix-topped mausoleum is a vast monument the dictator built with forced labour during his 1939-1975 rule.

- 'Reject extremism' -

The former conservative Popular Party government resisted bids to exhume him but Socialist President Pedro Sanchez revived the effort after taking office last year.

His government, which first announced the exhumation in June, has gained the Vatican's approval for the move.

Sanchez's government rejected a proposal by Franco's family to relocate him to Madrid's main cathedral, fearing it would become a place of pilgrimage for sympathisers.

The National Francisco Franco Foundation, which defends the memory of the dictator, has said it will appeal the move at the Supreme Court.

"When you attack Franco, you attack my family, over half of Spain, the monarchy and the Church which protected him," Franco's great-grandson Luis Alfonso de Borbon said in an interview published in conservative daily newspaper La Razon in October.

Spain's announcement comes as the country is gearing up for snap elections on April 28.

Sanchez is trying to prevent the Popular Party from returning to power with the support of newly-emerged far-right party Vox.

The two parties oppose Sanchez's policies to try to rehabilitate the memory of the left-wing victims of the civil war and Francisco Franco's dictatorship.

Last month, Sanchez visited France to pay tribute to the 450,000 Spaniards who sought refuge there at the end of the 1936-39 civil war and during the dictatorship.

He has vowed to defend the values of "tolerance and reject extremism" in times of rising populism.