Franco will be exhumed in June despite family opposition

Spain will finally exhume the remains of late dictator Francisco Franco from his current resting place at a vast mausoleum built using forced labour and moved to a cemetery alongside his wife.

Franco will be exhumed in June despite family opposition
Photo: AFP

“The reburial of Franco's remains will take place in the morning of June 10th. They will be taken to the state pantheon Mingorrubio-El Pardo,” Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said following the cabinet meeting on Friday. 

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Spanish govt's vow to exhume Franco

A man wearing a Franco-era Spanish flag among visitors at the Valley of the Fallen. Photo: AFP 

The Socialist government of Pedro Sanchez made it a priority to remove Franco's remains from an imposing basilica in the Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen) near Madrid, which was built in part by political prisoners during his regime.

But despite pledging the move just days after taking power last June, the bid to exhume the remains of Franco, who ruled from 1939 to 1975, has run into difficulties and with a general election in April, time was running out.

Franco's family, which is against the exhumation said it would only agree to bury his remains at Madrid's central Almudena Cathedral, where the family owns a crypt and where the dictator's daughter, Carmen Franco-Polo and her husband are already interred. 

But government in a bid avoid such a high profile resting place, wanted Franco's embalmed body to be relocated to a more discreet spot and insisted that the cathedral in the centre of Madrid was out of the question. 

Fresh flowers on Franco's grave in the Valley of the Fallen. Photo: AFP

In a report prepared last November, the government said it fears such a central site as the Almudena, would only attract an even larger number of visitors. This would pose a significant headache for security forces as it is right next door the Royal Palace.

Instead the government has suggested that a grave in the Mingorubbio cemetery in El Pardo, a town on the edge of Madrid where the Franco family had a palace, would be ideal.

His wife, Carmen Polo was buried there on her death in 1988. 

The  Mingorubbia cemetery has been suggested for reburial.

But there are still fears that any new burial site will become a place of pilgrimage for admirers of Franco and supporters of fascism. 

Last year alone, 366,000 people visited the Valley of the Fallen, according to ticket sales at the site – 150,000 of them in the July and August after the newly installed Spanish government announced plans to exhume him.

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.

READ MORE: Spanish councils ordered to remove Franco symbols once and for all

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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.