Spain's Franco-era policeman 'Billy el niño' has medals withdrawn

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Spain's Franco-era policeman 'Billy el niño' has medals withdrawn
Demonstrators hold a banner with pictures of victims of the Franco dictatorship and placards depicting Juan Antonio Gonzalez Pacheco, alias "Billy el Nino", as they protest during his extradition hearing at the Spanish National Court in Madrid in 2014. Photo: GERARD JULIEN/AFP

The controversial Franco-era policeman and alleged torturer known as 'Billy el niño' has had his medals and awards posthumously withdrawn by the Spanish government as part of its Democratic Memory Law legislation.


Spain's Interior Minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, has ordered the withdrawal of all medals and rewards received by police and Guardia Civil agents who were "part of the Franco dictatorship apparatus" in line with the application of Spain's Democratic Memory Law.

Most notably, this decision means the posthumous withdrawal of all medals and financial awards given to Francoist policeman and alleged torturer Juan Antonio González Pacheco, known as 'Billy el Niño' (Billy the Kid).


Pacheco, who died of Covid-19 in May 2020, has long been a controversial figure in Spanish history, and for many is the most famous face of the repression of the Franco regime and Spain's reluctance to properly come to terms with its brutal dictatorial past.

Pacheco had four medals, one awarded during the dictatorship and the other three during Spain's transition to democracy. It emerged years later that, as is often the case, these awards were accompanied by financial endowment and boosts to their police pensions.

After officially becoming law in October 2022, Spain's wide-ranging Democratic Memory Law, which among other things seeks to honour the memory of the Franco-era victims by exhuming mass graves and annulling convictions from the dictatorship, is now entering into force and the removal of awards given to the foot soldiers of the Franco regime is part of paying back that historical debt.

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As part of the legislation, the Spanish government has begun a review process to withdraw awards granted not only to the repressors of Francoism but also to those who have "carried out acts incompatible with democratic values and the guiding principles of protection of human rights established by the Spanish Constitution."

Such was Pacheco's infamy, the law actually included an additional provision almost specifically designed for the case of 'Billy el niño', according to sources from Spain's Interior Ministry.

Billy el niño

Pacheco was born on October 10th, 1946 in Aldea del Cano, Cáceres. He was the most visible face of the Social Political Brigade (BPS) and a leading figure in the secret police apparatus of the later years of the Franco dictatorship. 

Victim testimony has described how he would regularly hang prisoners from bars and beat them, as well as holding their heads under dirty water and almost drowning them as part of the interrogation process.

Pacheco was a National Police agent for 11 years, and one of the most feared men in the dungeons of the General Security Directorate, in Madrid's Puerta del Sol, used by the Franco regime as a detention centre. He is thought to have revelled in his infamy and nickname.

Over the years hundreds of testimonies from victims described the torture they were subjected to at the Puerta del Sol, with Pacheco thought to be most vicious of all guards. He was also thought to be involved in the assassination of Enrique Ruano, a law student and a member of the Popular Liberation Front.

Ruano died in the custody of the Franco secret police on January 20th, 1969, when he fell from the a seventh floor window in Madrid. The death was ruled a suicide. 


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Yet Pacheco's crimes did nothing to prevent him being rewarded with medals and pensions.

After receiving a Military merit cross and medals in 1977 and 1980, in 1982 he received the Gold Medal and a 20 percent boost to his police pension. Between his various medals and awards, it is thought Pacheco's pension was increased by around 50 percent, and he lived in Madrid among the descendants of his victims until his death in 2020.

In 2013 an Argentinian judge ordered an international search and capture order against Pacheco and four other Franco-era security force members. In 2014, however, his extradition request was rejected in a Madrid court during a trial that saw protests in the streets.


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