Rallies banned at Franco's mausoleum
Thursday October 18, 2007
The basilica in which General Franco is buried will no longer be used to hold political rallies in celebration of Spain's former dictator, according to a new law to be voted on at the end of the month.
The foundation that runs the Valley of the Fallen, a vast memorial to Franco topped with a giant cross visible for miles around, will also have to provide information on "all of those who died during the civil war and who suffered repression", not just the victims of the republicans.
The Valley of the Fallen, in the Guadarrama valley north-west of Madrid, remains a shrine for the small band of followers who still openly support Franco. But if the new law is passed, they will no longer be permitted to meet there on the anniversary of his death, when they gather to sing "Cara al Sol", or "Face to the Sun", the anthem to Franco.
Between 1940 and 1958, republican prisoners were forced to build the mausoleum under Franco's orders, and the underground crypt was declared a basilica by Pope John Paul XXIII in 1960.
The change in status of the Valley of the Fallen is one of a number of amendments made today to the historical memory law, one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in Spain's 30 years of democracy.
First proposed by the Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero last year, the law has been fiercely opposed by the conservative People's party (PP). In a surprise move today, The PP supported the amendment on Franco's mausoleum, but continued to express their opposition to the law. The PP's general secretary, Angel Acebes, described it as the result of a process intended to "divide rather than unite the people of Spain".
It was also announced that the grandchildren of those who were forced into exile, or chose to leave Spain during the dictatorship, will be able to apply for Spanish nationality. Until now only those whose parents were born in Spain could apply for citizenship. According to the governing PSOE, this amendment will affect around 1 million people, who will have a two-year period from 2009 within which to apply.
Last week it was confirmed that Spain would ban all public references to the Franco regime, with all statues, street names and symbols associated with the dictator to be removed. Those churches which still have plaques commemorating Franco and the victims of his republican opponents risk losing state aid if the refuse to remove them.