Spain's government says Franco's remains should be moved

Tue Nov 29, 2011 11:52am EST
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By Emma Pinedo

MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco's remains should be removed from a controversial monument outside Madrid, a commission named by the outgoing Socialist government recommended on Tuesday.

The commission also proposed building a visitors' center to explain the Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen), where 33,840 soldiers from both sides of Spain's 1936-39 Civil War are buried.

The giant mausoleum, hewn out of rock on a mountainside an hour's drive northwest of Madrid, has been criticized as the only remaining monument to a fascist leader in Europe.

"For the Valley of the Fallen to be given new meaning, free of ideological and political connotations, it must be reserved for the remains of victims of the war. Franco is the only person buried there who did not die in the war," Virgilio Zapatero, one of the commission presidents, told a news conference.

Franco died of natural causes in 1975 after ruling Spain for 36 years.

The commission's findings may come to nothing because the Socialists lost badly in the November 20 parliamentary election, the anniversary of his death.

The center-right People's Party, which will form a new government in mid-December, has not taken sides in the debate over the Valley.

In the past, however, the PP has consistently opposed examining the Civil War and Franco's ensuing decades-long dictatorship saying it would just re-open old wounds.   Continued...

<p>People leave after attending mass at the basilica where the tombs of Spain's former dictator General Francisco Franco and Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the right-wing group Falange, lie in the Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen) near Madrid November 20, 2011. REUTERS/Susana Vera</p>