‘Franco’s victims probably deserved to die’

A town mayor in northern Spain has got himself into hot water after saying that those who were sentenced to death during the regime of former Spanish dictator Franco "deserved it".

'Franco's victims probably deserved to die'
Francisco Franco was the Head of the Spanish State until his death in 1975. Screen grab: YouTube

Manuel González, the conservative Popular Party mayor of the town of Baralla in the region of Galicia, uttered the unfortunate words during a municipal hearing on July 26th.

The council session included a vote condemning violent acts by separatist group Resistencia Galega.

But when González and his Popular Party entourage were asked to also denounce the murders committed during Spain’s 40-year Francoist regime, the conservative leader said “they probably got what they deserved”.

Baralla’s socialists were immediately appalled by González’s claims, labelling them as “hurtful and inacceptable in a democratic society”.

“If they (the PP) don’t apologize, all they’ll be doing is showing how dictatorial conservative town hall leaders are in Spain,” said the PP in an official statement.

The Galician mayor has insisted “his words were taken out of context” but they were nonetheless “unfortunate”.

Although the exact number of people murdered during the Franco regime is unknown, it is estimated that anywhere from 15,000 to 50,000 Spaniards lost their lives.

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Spain to exhume bodies of civil war victims at Valley of the Fallen

The Spanish government on Tuesday approved a special fund to exhume graves at the Valley of the Fallen, where thousands of victims of the Spanish Civil War and dictator Francisco Franco are buried.

Spain to exhume bodies of civil war victims at Valley of the Fallen
Women hold up pictures of their fathers and relatives, who were condemned to death during Franco’s dictatorship. Photo: OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP

The Socialist government said it had set aside €665,000 ($780,000) to exhume some 33,000 victims whose remains lie behind a vast basilica near Madrid.

Franco was buried in the basilica when he died in 1975 but his remains were removed in 2019 and transferred to a discreet family plot on the outskirts of the capital.

Government spokesperson Maria Jesus Montera told reporters that more than 60 families and international institutions had called for the exhumation of the victims to give relatives who suffered during the civil war and Franco’s dictatorship “moral reparation”.

Campaigners estimate more than 100,000 victims from the war and its aftermath remain buried in unmarked graves across Spain —- a figure, according to Amnesty International, only exceeded by Cambodia.

Human remains discovered during exhumation works carried out by the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory of Valladolid, in a mass grave where the bodies of hundreds of people were dumped during the Spanish civil war. Photo by CESAR MANSO/AFP

Built between 1940 and 1958 partly by the forced labour of political prisoners, the imposing basilica and the mausoleum of the Valley of the Fallen was initially intended for those who had fought for Franco.

But in 1959 the remains of many Republican opponents were moved there from cemeteries and mass graves across the country without their families being informed.

The crypts and ossuaries where some of the victims are buried are inaccessible as they were walled off at the time.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has made the rehabilitation of the victims of the Franco era one of his priorities since coming to power in 2018.

As well as the Valley of the Fallen, his government is also focusing on identifying remains founds in mass graves across Spain.