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Institutional statement by Acting President of the Government regarding exhumation of Francisco Franco

Moncloa Palace, Madrid, Thursday 24 October 2019

Good afternoon and my thanks to all the media representatives who have come to Moncloa Palace to listen to this institutional statement.

Today, on 24 October 2019, the tasks of exhuming and transferring the remains of the dictator Francisco Franco from the basilica at the Valley of the Fallen to Mingorrubio cemetery have been concluded.

And this thus brings to an end a long process, with the ratification of all three State powers: the legislative, the executive and the judiciary.

It was the legislative power, with just one vote against in Parliament, that urged the government to bring to an end an anomaly in a European democracy such as Spain's, whereby a dictator is glorified in a mausoleum built during the dictatorship, by the dictator, to the glory of the dictator.

It was the executive power that took the necessary actions to carry out the exhumation.

And lastly, it was the judiciary power which, with a ruling handed down by the Supreme Court, upheld the procedure with all due guarantees. And that is how a democratic State works under the rule of law.

This is thus fulfilled with a mandate from Parliament, a ruling from the Supreme Court and the commitment of the Government of Spain.

But above all, today Spain fulfils a commitment to itself.

This decision brings to an end a moral outrage in the form of the glorification of the figure of a dictator in a public space. One more step has been taken in a reconciliation based on the democracy and liberty that we share. Furthermore, our democracy is praised throughout the world, and is backed by such bodies as the United Nations.

It took us a long time to do away with a repressive regime. And it has taken us almost the same time to remove the remains of its architect from a place of public tribute.

Everyone may have their own opinions on the time to carry out this action, each with their own criterion. My government publicly announced that it would do it as soon as it became possible; and now is the time; and we have done this; not a day earlier or a day later.

The mausoleum in the Valley of the Fallen was erected with the sacrifice of thousands of political prisoners of the dictatorship. The mortal remains of almost 34,000 compatriots, victims of the Spanish Civil War, were taken there. More than one third of them remain unidentified even today; and many of them lie in that place after their bodies were taken there without the consent or indeed the knowledge of their families.

Hence, it is a disgrace that needed to be rectified sooner rather than later; as it also is that there are still thousands of mass unmarked graves throughout the country, and this is an aberration that we must decisively address. For justice and dignity, but, above all, out of common humanity.

Today's Spain owes a debt to these families. Today's Spain also owes a debt to those Spaniards who fought on the battlefields of the Second World War, combating fascism in Europe. As it owes a debt in 2019 to those who were forced into exile exactly 80 years ago.

It owes a debt to those Spaniards left to their fate in the concentration camps, while their government turned its backs on them and classed them as stateless, and to those who were persecuted, and those Spaniards humiliated for decades for their ideas.

Today's Spain arose out of forgiveness, but it must not forget. Today's Spain is diametrically opposed to everything the Franco regime stood for. Where there was repression under a dictatorship, there is now liberty and democracy; where there was uniformity and imposition, there is now cultural and territorial diversity; where there was isolation, there is now Europe; where there was male chauvinism and homophobia, there is now feminism and tolerance.

Public tribute to the dictator was more than just an anachronism and an anomaly; it was a stain on our democracy, on Spanish democracy. Rectifying this was a duty for those generations that did not grow up under the trauma of the civil war and the Franco regime.

The generation of our grandparents fought in a fierce struggle; the generation of our parents was reconciled in an act of harmony. Today, we pay tribute to all our past generations. And with future generations in mind, we proclaim that the insignia of democracy and co-existence will forever prevail in our homeland.

In a few days, when the Valley of the Fallen opens its doors once again, those who visit will find a different place, because as of today those who lie there are all victims, and only victims. When it reopens its doors it will symbolise something else - the memory of a pain that must never be repeated and a tribute to all the victims of hatred.

Thank you. 

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation