Spanish 'memory law' reopens deep wounds of Franco era

For the first time since the civil war 70 years ago, Spain has finally made an effort to recognise its authoritarian past, in a bill that condemns Francisco Franco's dictatorship and honours his victims.

After months of haggling, and fierce opposition from the conservative Popular Party (PP), the ruling Socialists will present their Law of Historic Memory to parliament today, 32 years after the death of the dictator.

The difficulty in producing a draft acceptable to most MPs reveals how deeply Franco's legacy still divides Spain. The issue is set to enflame an already heated political atmosphere ahead of general elections next March.

"We have reached an important moment," said the Socialist parliamentary spokesman Diego Lopez Garrido. "The law will provide definitive reparation and recognition for those who suffered in the civil war."

The Law of Historic Memory condemns Franco's actions during the civil war between 1936 and 1939, and his 40-year dictatorship. MPs from most parties had "reached a high degree of rapprochement on the main points of the law", said Mr Garrido, although some details remained to be worked out.

The bill will declare arbitrary sentences handed down by military courts set up by Franco "unjust" and "illegitimate", said Mr Garrido. This will enable victims or their families to seek redress through the courts for executions, exile and persecution never before challenged. It will also offer token compensation for families of those killed, wounded or expropriated.

Supporters of the law say it brings symbolic justice for the first time to those vanquished by Franco. A radio poll this week reckoned up to half of the population approved of the law, a flagship proposal by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero when he became Prime Minister in 2004.

But the PP said the initiative was "a huge mistake" that rakes up memories of the worst time in Spain's recent history. "Zapatero has brought division and confrontation, and reopened the wounds of the past," said Angel Acebes, the PP's general secretary. The PP has never dissociated itself from Franco, and many members covertly admire him.

The ruling Socialists won support from MPs in small parties from Catalonia, the Basque Country, Galicia and Aragon, and from the communist United Left on the main points of the bill. But the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left says it won't back the law because it is too soft and lets old Francoists off the hook. The law would subject victims to a "calvary of legal proceedings", the party warned.

The law was stalled for months, and might have died had the government not made concessions to win majority support at the last moment. Another week, and it would have run out of parliamentary time.

Emilio Silva, spokesman for the movement that seeks to recover the remains of those shot and thrown into unmarked mass graves, said he was shocked that no census was planned of tens of thousands killed by Franco's troops and buried anonymously. Mr Silva's grandfather was among those summarily executed. "I'm happy the law is going ahead, the first recognition of past injustice, but it's very lukewarm and it's unclear how it will be implemented," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn