If the family of dictator General Franco does not give the government a decision on where his remains should be placed within the next two weeks, the State will decide on their behalf, says justice minister Dolores Delgado.
The fascist leader, who died in 1975 ending a nearly 40-year reign which started with the Civil War, is currently buried in the Valle de Los Caídos (‘Valley of the Fallen’), a huge memorial site, cemetery and tourist attraction which houses the graves of not only victims of the late-1930s conflict, but also victims of the dictatorship itself.
Spain’s government, with the full backing of the European Union, considers that the body of a dictator lying next to those of his own victims is a situation that ‘has no place in a 21st-century democracy’, and passed a Royal Decree, or Bill of Law, allowing it to exhume Franco’s remains and move them to another graveyard.
His surviving family – now in its third generation following the relatively recent death of his daughter Carmen – were asked to state where they wished the body to be placed, but opted to appeal against the transfer.
This was unsuccessful, and they now have until March 1 to inform the government of their choice of location.
In the absence of this, the State will decide on March 2 where to put the dictator’s body.
Once exhumed from the Valle de Los Caídos (pictured) in the Greater Madrid region, the only place where the government will not allow Franco to be buried is in the Almudena Cathedral ‘for public order reasons’ and because it would violate the Law of Historic Memory, passed in 2007 as an instrument to right the wrongs of Franco’s regime and previous cases of ethnic cleansing – including the expulsion of the Sephardic Jews in the 14th century, whose ancestors in south-eastern Europe are now automatically eligible for joint Spanish nationality.
The government can even overrule the religious order which runs the basilica in the Valle de Los Caídos, meaning if the Church objects to Franco’s being moved, the State can still proceed because ‘places of worship are not exempt from civil authority’.
According to the National Francisco Franco Foundation (FNFF), run by the dictator’s family – a group which has since been outlawed by the European Union – the removal of the leader’s remains from their current site is ‘illegal’.
Franco’s grandchildren say it should be up to them where he is buried, and that if the government remains determined to exhume his body, it should be placed where the family owns a series of tombs in the crypt of the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid.
The FNFF says it will use ‘all legal means within its power’ to fight the 15-day rule and the ban on their descendant being laid to rest in either the Valle de Los Caídos or the Almudena.