Fascists gather to mark Franco's death

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Hundreds of people nostalgic for Spain's fascist past held a rally yesterday to mark the 35th anniversary of dictator Francisco Franco's death.

The peaceful demonstration in Madrid's central Plaza de Oriente square in the city's old quarter followed three smaller protests on Saturday, including pro- and anti-Franco gatherings at Franco's mausoleum.

Jose Maria Pedreno, the head of an association that wants abuses during and after Spain's civil war investigated, said at one rally that the nation should tear down part of the divisive reminder of the Franco era and make it a monument to the folly of war.

The Valley of the Fallen mausoleum is carved into a mountainside some 50 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of Madrid and features a 150-meter tall granite cross.

It is a popular tourist destination, although for many Spaniards it is painful and divisive reminder of a bloody war and its aftermath.

Pedreno said the cross should be demolished and Franco's body given to his family for reburial in a less provocative location.

Franco supporters flock to the monument each year to commemorate the dictator, who died in 1975 after nearly four decades in power. His body was interred in the mausoleum, which he built over 20 years from 1940 as a symbol of his victory. It was inaugurated with a basilica run by Benedictine monks.