Ley de Memoria Democrática outlaws Franco worship

by Deborah Cater
Ley de Memoria Democrática outlaws Franco Worship Image: Zarateman, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Spanish government has approved a preliminary draft of the Ley de Memoria Democrática (Democratic Memory Act) in a second round of voting. With this, glorification of Francisco Franco and his decades-long dictatorship is legally prohibited in Spain for the first time.

With the Law on Democratic Memory, Spain is coming up against international recommendations to adapt the regulations in this regard to the European standard. That is, “the coup of 1936 and the ensuing Civil War and dictatorship is openly rejected, and glorification is punished.” Following the new law, the body of the Falangist José Antonio Primo de Rivera will also be exhumed from the basilica of Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen). A DNA bank will be created to identify the victims who disappeared during the dictatorship.

The preliminary draft of the new law is intended to replace the current Historical Remembrance Act passed in 2007. The bill for the Democratic Memory Act was passed in a first round of voting in September last year. However, it has been subject to public hearings and legal consultations in the past ten months.

Fundación Francisco Franco prohibited by law

The Ley de Memoria Democrática will ban organisations that glorify dictator Franco or his regime, such as the Fundación Francisco Franco. There are also sanctions for any public glorification of Spanish dictators or dictatorial regimes and for trivialising the suffering of their victims. This provides a legal framework for the recognition and protection of the victims of the Civil War and the subsequent dictatorship.

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The far-right Vox party announced it will appeal to the constitutional court against the approval of the new law. The Catalan parties ERC and CUP also do not agree with the content of the new law. However, they believe it does not regulate enough. They look for more, such as the return of the heritage appropriated by organisations since the coup in 1936.

Civil cemetery and memorial for victims

After the removal of Primo de Rivera’s body from the mausoleum, Valle de los Caídos will become a civilian cemetery. It will also be a memorial for all victims of the Civil War and the dictatorship. No decision has been made on the future of the big cross.

The Spanish Supreme Court will further investigate the crimes committed by the Franco regime. That is, from the coup d’état in 1936 until the promulgation of the Spanish Constitution in 1978.

Documentation centre

In public places, all symbols referring to Franco or his regime are to be removed. Instead, memorial sites will be set up in honour of the Democratic Remembrance. In Salamanca, a new documentation centre will fall under the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture. This contains all available documentation for the period 1936 to 1978.

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