Spain passes "Historical Memory" law on Franco era
The Spanish parliament Oct. 31 passed a landmark bill that condemns the 1939-75 fascist dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco and mandates restitution to its victims. The Law of Historical Memory, approved by the lower house, will expand benefits to victims of Spain's 1936-39 civil war and nearly four decades of dictatorship that followed. Approval by the Senate is considered a formality. Right-wing opposition politicians bitterly fought the law, arguing it reopens wounds that would further divide the country. The Socialist government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero—whose grandfather was among thousands executed by Franco's forces—maintains that while Franco supporters who suffered during the war have been honored and compensated, those who opposed him faced only persecution. Details of the bill from the LA Times:
* Sentences handed down by kangaroo courts during the dictatorship, which sent thousands of dissidents and opponents of the regime to jail, will be formally declared "illegitimate."
* Local governments must help locate, exhume and identify the bodies of victims from mass graves. Tens of thousands of Republican partisans are believed to be buried in clandestine common graves throughout the country, their fates never officially established.
* Demonstrations are banned at El Valle de los Caidos, or the Valley of the Fallen, a mausoleum and tourist attraction where Franco is buried, sometimes used for fascist rallies.
* Spaniards who lost citizenship after the dictatorship forced them into exile can regain it; descendants of exiles will be allowed to apply for citizenship during a two-year period.
* Plaques, statues and other symbols honoring Franco "or statements in exaltation of the military uprising, the civil war or the repression of the dictatorship" must be removed from public view.
It is here that legislators made a last-minute amendment at the behest of the church, which asserted "artistic-religious" reasons for maintaining plaques that honor priests and nuns who fell victim to Republican forces. Many of these commemorations contain the insignia of Franco and the fascists. Churches will be allowed to keep these memorials.
If there is to be a measure banning display of symbols, this exception is fairly sinister. However, as we have pointed out re. European laws against Holocaust revisionism and denying the Armenian genocide, censorship and authoritarianism in the name of anti-fascism makes no political sense and is (we fear) doomed to backfire. We anticipate an ugly backlash from the Franco-nostalgists.