Spain braced for dictator’s removal from giant tomb
Spain’s Socialist government has today (Thursday) ordered for the 1.5-tonne slab that has covered dictator General Francisco Franco’s tomb to be lifted at the Valley of the Fallen and the corpse moved to his family mausoleum near Madrid at the Mingorrubio-El Pardo municipal cemetery.
One of Franco’s seven grandchildren said the exhumation was a “profanation” and that Spain’s minority government wanted to turn it into a campaign issue for the November 10 general election.
Francisco Franco Martínez-Bordiú said: “It’s an all-out desecration”, adding that the Catholic church and centre-right Spanish parties had not done enough to impede the reburial.
The Socialist administration “had to hop over several obstacles with the complicity of those people to arrive on time and be able to use the exhumation as part of the electoral campaign”.
Franco’s current tomb is at the centre of the vast the basilica, partly built by the forced labour of political prisoners, 64km northwest of Madrid.
The Valley of the Fallen and its 150-metre cross are supposed to commemorate those killed in the Spanish civil war but the site is often seen as glorifying Franco and his brutal dictatorship.
The Valley of the Fallen is Spain’s largest mass grave and holds the bodies of more than 33,000 people from both sides of the civil war.
The government said the remains could no longer “remain in a public mausoleum that exalts his figure” and the relocation would “symbolically close the circle of Spanish democracy”.
This morning a canopy around the tomb will block any videoing of the ceremony and those present will be checked for recording devices.
A journalist dressed as a monk with a climbing harness was arrested at the site at the weekend, allegedly trying to set up cameras ahead of today’s ceremony.
The wooden coffin will be inspected for water damage. It was surrounded with lead and concrete to protect it from underground streams.
Franco’s body is also protected by a zinc box inside the coffin. It is assumed this will be in good condition and it could be placed inside a new coffin.
The exhumation could take up to three hours and then the corpse is due to be flown – weather permitting – by helicopter for the 15-minute journey to the cemetery.
The officiating priest is the son of Antonio Tejero, the Guardia Civil colonel who led the botched 1981 coup attempt after the return to democracy following Franco’s death in 1975.
About 100,000 civil war victims are thought to lie in the unmarked graves. Spain is thought to have more mass graves than any country except Cambodia.
A civil war mass grave. Picture credit: Wikimedia