Ruling party spurns emotional tribute to Franco's victims

Elizabeth Nash
Tuesday 02 December 2003 01:00

Hundreds of people representing victims of the dictator General Francisco Franco crowded into Spain's parliament building yesterday for an emotional act of recognition they have fought more than 25 years to celebrate.

The unprecedented tribute was organised by all political parties represented in parliament except for the ruling Popular Party (PP). They boycotted the event saying it only reopened old wounds and "smelt of mothballs".

Among the crowds were those forced or born into exile, former anti-Franco guerrilla fighters, those who spent years in hiding, or in jail and families of those shot by firing squads whose bodies were never recovered.

Many expressed their respect, for the parliament whose democratic values they spent their lives defending. The homage began with a minute's silence for the seven Spaniards killed at the weekend in Iraq.

It was broken by cries of "no to war" from the crowd. "I'm sure we speak for the overwhelming majority of Spaniards who want to honour you ...," the main opposition Socialists' spokesman, Jesus Caldera, said. "Our democratic constitution was built on consensus, but we cannot build democracy by forgetting the past."

Inaki Anasagasti, The Basque National Party spokesman, was applauded when he called for a revival of the republic that Franco's forces destroyed in 1936. "The PP condemn Eta, and so do we, but Eta was a consequence of Francoism, and the PP has still not yet condemned Francoism."

Isabel Gonzalez Lozada, 86, told of her struggle to find the bodies of her brother and brother-in-law who were "vilely assassinated" in 1936 by Franco's troops and thrown into a ditch. "I've fought long and hard for their memory to be honoured, as have others, but there are still those who don't understand our sorrow," she said.

But when the moment came for her to read her short message, her voice faltered and became choked with tears. As applause welled around her, she cried: "I want to remember all those men and women ... all over Spain who are afraid to speak of what happened during the civil war and the dictatorship. Let's hope this will help them lose their fear."

Another elderly man described his experience in the Republican Army, prison and concentration camps he said: "We only want recognition for giving our youth and our hopes for Spain. After 40 years of Franco and 25 years of democracy we are told we must forgive and forget. How can we forget?"

Alfonso Guerra, a former socialist leader who helped draft the 1978 constitution that celebrates its 25th anniversary this week, said recognition would heal wounds, not reopen them. "But the PP don't want to close the wounds ... , they want to continue the divisions between two Spains."

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