The last statue of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco (1892-1975) was removed on Tuesday (23) from the city gates of Melilla, an autonomous city belonging to Spain and located on the northwest coast of Africa.
Without much fanfare, a group of workers operated a mechanical excavator and heavy drills to remove pieces of the brick platform on which the bronze statue stood.
Then the monument was lifted by a chain attached to what would be Franco’s neck and transported wrapped in bubble wrap by a van. According to Melilla officials, the statue was taken to a municipal warehouse, but its use was not specified.
Erected in 1978, three years after the dictator’s death, the monument celebrated Franco’s role as commander of the Spanish Legion in the Rif War, a conflict in the 1920s when Spain and France fought against the Berber tribes in Morocco.
“It’s a historic day for Melilla,” said on Monday (22) Elena Fernandez Trevino, responsible for education and culture of the city, after the local assembly voted to remove the monument, stressing that it ‘was “the only statue dedicated to a dictator still in the public sphere in Europe”.
Only Vox, a far-right Spanish party, voted against the measure. Its representatives argued that the statue celebrates Franco’s military role, not his dictatorship.
According to Vox, therefore, the Historical Memory Law, which requires the removal of all symbols related to the Franco regime, would not apply in this case. The Conservative People’s Party abstained from voting.
The law was passed in 2007, under the government led by socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. In addition to removing the monuments of the dictatorship from public space, the legislation also provides for the renaming of several streets dedicated to figures of Francoism.
The current Spanish Prime Minister, the Socialist Pedro Sánchez, has made the reparation and rehabilitation of the victims of the Franco regime one of his priorities since taking office in 2018.
After a long argument with the descendants of the dictator, the Spanish executive took Franco’s remains in a huge mausoleum outside Madrid, where he had been buried, and transported them, in October 2019, to a family niche. discreet in a cemetery in the capital.
The process had a lot of symbolism as the monument became a place of exaltation of Francoism – and no other country in Western Europe has similar spaces dedicated to honoring dictators.
“Modern Spain is the product of forgiveness, but it cannot be the product of forgetting,” Sánchez said at the time. “A public homage to a dictator was more than an anachronism. It was an affront to our democracy.”
In September 2020, the Spanish court ordered six Franco’s grandchildren to return to the state a palace in Sada, Galicia, in the northwest of the country, which the family had enjoyed for decades.
The palace was donated by its owner and acquired by a Francoist organ in 1938, in the middle of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). After the conflict, the dictator ruled the country until his death in 1975.
In the award, the court declared the 1938 donation null and void, because the property had been given “to the Head of State, and not to Francisco Franco in a personal capacity”.
Born in Ferrol, Galicia, Franco was a dictator who championed nationalist and fascist ideas. As a general, he was part of a military and conservative movement that attempted to stage a coup against a left-wing government in 1936.
The coup failed, but sparked a civil war. Franco led a military offensive to dominate the country and was supported by Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. On the other hand, the Republicans received help from the Soviet Union and defenders of communism. The conflict has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in three years, in armed strife and summary executions.
When Franco took office, he set up a regime that absolutely concentrated power in his hands. There was the persecution of opponents, censorship and worship of his image, in addition to the defense of Catholicism and the maintenance of customs. After his death, Spain began a transition to return to democracy.