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Spain finally evicts Franco family from late dictator’s summer palace

The Spanish state on Thursday took possession of a mansion owned by the family of Francisco Franco after a court found it had been illegally bought by the late dictator decades ago.

Spain finally evicts Franco family from late dictator's summer palace
The turreted country house used by Franco and his family for summer holidays. Photo: Xunta de Galicia

The Pazo de Meiras estate in the northwestern Galicia region, which was used by Franco as a summer residence, had been used for decades by his family who claimed it as their private property. 

But in September, a court in the northwestern Galicia region ordered them to turn it over to state ownership, upholding a Spanish government complaint that the sale of the property in 1941 was “fraudulent”.

In a statement, the court said a judge had “handed over the keys of Pazo de Meiras” to the state in line with the ruling “in which it was agreed that the building was public property”.

The move was hailed as a “laudable achievement” by Carmen Calvo, a deputy prime minister in the leftwing government of Pedro Sanchez.    

Built between 1893 and 1907, the estate was acquired by a Francoist organisation during the civil war (1936-1939) and later signed over to the victorious dictator, who was born in Galicia and died in 1975.

In 2018, Galicia's regional government declared the 19th-century mansion to be of “historic and cultural value”, ordering the family to open it up to the public. But they fiercely opposed the move, arguing it was private property.

A year later, the government filed a complaint that was upheld by the court, which took issue with the donation of the property in 1938 and subsequent sale in 1941, ruling it “null and void”, since it was transferred to “the head of state and not to Francisco Franco personally”.   

It also found that the sale was little more than a “pretence” given that “Franco did not pay anything” for it, ordering his family “to immediately hand over the property”.

An appeal by the family was rejected.    

Handing over the property is a new setback for the Franco family who in 2019 failed to stop the dictator's exhumation from a grandiose Catholic mausoleum, with his remains moved to a discreet family plot on the outskirts of Madrid.

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HISTORY

Basque population’s ‘genetic singularity’ confirmed in largest-ever study

New research shows that the region's genetic difference only began to emerge 2,500 years ago as a result of centuries of isolation.

Basque population's 'genetic singularity' confirmed in largest-ever study
The study shows the Basque genetic differences are the result of centuries of isolation and inbreeding potentially caused the unique Basque dialects. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA / AFP

The largest-ever study of almost 2,000 DNA samples carried out by Pompeu Fabra university in Barcelona has confirmed the ‘genetic singularity’ of the Basque population in Europe.

However, the research showed that this genetic difference only began to emerge 2,500 years ago in the Iron Age.

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, shows the Basque genetic differences are the result of centuries of isolation and inbreeding, potentially caused by unique Basque dialects which have no roots in any other living language anywhere in the world.

The particular Basque language, Euskera, might have limited Basques’ interactions with other communities, who couldn’t understand them.

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

Researchers analysed the DNA of 190 people whose four grandparents were born in the same area. The results showed DNA pools are concentrated in regions according to the historical distribution of the various dialects of Basque.

The research team’s hypothesis is that the language was also an internal obstacle due to the existence of dialects that were not mutually intelligible.

The current standardised Basque language, called Batua, was only developed and codified in the 1960s.

“Our results are compatible with Euskara as one of the main factors preventing major gene flow after the Iron Age and shaping the genetic panorama of the Basque region,” the study said.

READ ALSO: The most common mistakes foreigners make when greeting people in Spain

The origin of the Basques has fascinated scientists since the 19th century, and the history of the population’s genetics has produced contradictory results.

In 2015, Mexican biologist Cristina Valdiosera of the University of Burgos showed that Basques are not as ancient as previously thought, marking their genetic divergence as starting 5,000 years ago.

In 2019, Íñigo Olalde’s team at Harvard University shortened it further to around 2,500 years ago, which was confirmed by the new study.

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