October 24, 2019 / 6:29 PM / in 7 months

Factbox: Reactions to Spain's exhumation of former dictator Franco

MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco’s remains were exhumed on Thursday from a state mausoleum outside Madrid where they had lain since his death in 1975, for reburial in a private family vault.

A still image taken from a video shows the coffin with the remains of Spanish late dictator Francisco Franco as it is carried into a helicopter in The Valle de los Caidos (The Valley of the Fallen) in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain, October 24, 2019. TVE Pool/via Reuters TV

The Socialist Party that is currently in power had long sought to remove Franco’s bones from the Valley of the Fallen. The huge monument was built on Franco’s orders and contains the remains of combatants from both sides of the 1936-39 civil war that he unleashed.

Franco’s nationalist legacy still divides Spain and its political parties. Following are reactions to Thursday’s transfer, which an El Mundo opinion poll this month showed 43% of Spaniards favored and 32.5% opposed.

Acting Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez:

“Modern Spain is the product of forgiveness, but it can’t be the product of forgetfulness.

...A public tribute to a dictator was more than an anachronism. It was an affront to our democracy. Ending it was an obligation for the generations that did not grow up with the trauma of the civil war and dictatorship.”

Carmen Calvo, acting Deputy Prime Minister:

“The exhumation of Franco’s remains should make us reflect on what it means for our country’s own image and for democracy. Young people should understand that we can never again be without democracy.”

“We are the country with the second-highest number of disappeared people and that is unacceptable in a full democracy like ours.”

“In due course, the Valley of the Fallen will be a monument to honor, to the memory of the people who are there, and finally to justice for everyone, for both sides.”

Conservative PP party leader Pablo Casado:

“The past stays in the past... On (election day) November 10, we won’t vote on our past (but)... on our future.”

Pablo Iglesias, leader of left-wing party Unidas Podemos:

“Today, no party has the right to talk about victory or to take credit. No justice has yet been done for (Franco’s) victims. Today is the day to thank the associations of victims and the remembrance groups that have pushed and will continue to push for dignity and justice.”

Albert Rivera, leader of center-right party Ciudadanos:

“Sixty-five percent of Spaniards... did not live and suffer under Franco. The historic day was the day the (post-Franco) constitution was approved.”

“The bones of a dictator who died 44 years ago should not be a government’s priority in my opinion. The only silver lining is that Pedro Sanchez will stop talking about Franco’s bones.”

Santiago Abascal, leader of the far-right Vox party:

“Sanchez goes beyond junk TV with this electoral and corpse- scavenging show... The dead are respected, whether they are called Franco or (leftist icon) Pasionaria.”

Franco’s oldest grandson, Francisco Franco y Martinez Bordiu:

“I feel a great deal of rage because they have used something as cowardly as digging up a corpse, using a body as propaganda and political publicity, to win a handful of votes before an election.”

Onlookers in the cemetery where the remains are due to be reburied:

Jorge Alvarez, 24:

“I think what the government is trying to do is outrageous. I am here to protest and to prove that a quite big proportion of Spaniards are against what the government is trying to do.”

Maite Garcia, student, 16:

“They should not have moved him, because he died 44 years ago and if he’s there he’s not bothering anyone. If they bring him here, I don’t care but obviously I think he did bad things, very bad things, but also good things... It’s time to leave things alone. He’s dead, no matter what he did.”

Guillermo Barra, student, 16:

“I visited a year and a bit ago with my grandparents, to see Franco’s tomb before it disappeared... Seeing the tomb filled me with respect and it made me think that this man did a lot of things, rather bad things, and to see him there so human... makes you think.”

Ian Gibson, historian and expert in Spanish Civil War and Franco:

“Franco has been an ogre in a disgusting mausoleum. Today is the day of liberation.”

Baltasar Garzon, former judge who tried to open an inquiry into Franco’s crimes:

“Today a historic barbarity comes to an end.”

Emilio Silva, chairman of the Association of Historical Memory, the main national organization campaigning for Franco’s victims:

“The removal of the body of the dictator from the Valley of the Fallen marks the first time that General Franco’s biographical and symbolic journey ... is forced to obey an order from a democratic society, after 80 years of uprising.”

“The 1,500 kg gravestone that crowns his tomb is like the plug in a drain that can flush out the enormous number of structures and infrastructures that have survived throughout these 40 years of post-Franco political culture.”

Compiled by Emma Pinedo, Clara-Laeila Laudette and Jose Elias Rodriguez; Editing by John Stonestreet, Isla Binnie and Frances Kerry

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