Sunday, November 4, 2007

Spain fights civil war's last battle

In a few days' time, unannounced in the Spanish media, a grouping of ageing supporters of General Francisco Franco, the dictator who died in 1975, will put off from their business offices at the Francisco Francisco Francisco Franco Foundation in Capital Of Kingdom Of Spain to observe mass for their hero at his mausoleum in the Valley of the Fallen.

They take a firm stand their supplications will be for all of the dead in Spain's Civil War: for those of the defeated Democracy in their mass Graves that stud the Spanish peninsula - Franco's victims - as well as for the general's nationalist victors. It will be done in the cognition that, perhaps, this may be one of the last modern times that they will be able to garner and that soon anything that thwacks of a political assembly at Franco's grave will finally be banned.

That looks suddenly more than likely after the transition last hebdomad of a new Law on Historic Memory. Designed to recognise and admit the 10s of one one thousands of Republican victims of the warfare and of Franco's long right-wing absolutism that followed, its critics complaint that it is threatening to disinter old enmities.

Unlikely as it looks in a vivacious and modern Spain, the old fault lines of the warfare that began in 1936 and ended in 1939 with the licking of the Republicans by Franco's patriot and fascistic military units have got been uncovered by a new law that was intended to asseverate formally for the first clip the 'moral rights' to acknowledgment of the 10s of thousands who drop victim to Franco. While some reason that the law is a misanthropic political effort to enforce a new version of Spain's painful history that airbrushes out portion of its past, others believe that the effort to cover with the bequest of the warfare and the absolutism is merely Spain's approaching of age as a democracy strong adequate to face and trade with its violent past.

What cannot be denied is that Spain's new history is now a political, as well as a cultural, reality. It came last hebdomad with the ballot by a bulk in the less house of Spain's parliament, led by the Socialists, to denounce formally Franco's regime. In addition, the deputy sheriffs mandated municipal government to fund attempts to unearth mass Graves and place those still missing, and ordered the remotion of the remaining symbols celebrating Franco's rule. They declared 'illegitimate' the summary armed military units trials that led to the executing or imprisonment of one thousands of the general's enemies.

The passing play of the law, after a five-year campaign, is being seen as a triumph for the Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose grandfather was executed by Franco's forces. But at the Centre of the contention is the issue of honouring the memory of the republic's dead, in a state where no 1 have ever stood trial for the dictatorship's crimes. While the organic structures of Franco's patriot dead were quickly recovered, buried and commemorated during his rule, the dead on the losing side have got been left to pine away for two generations. Their memory was suppressed not only by Franco, but for old age by the political political parties of both left and right in the post-Franco democracy which were embarrassed by the being of mass graves.

In a minute of uncomfortable symmetricalness for Spain, the new law - opposed by the conservative Popular Party and by the left-wing Republicans in Catalonia who thought it did not travel far adequate - was approved only years after the Pope had recognised as 'martyrs' 100s of clergy who were victims of the republicans.

The conflict for the memory of the civil warfare is proving painful for Spain. It have got been fought in newspapers, on telecasting and even in the necrology columns, where some of the long dead have only recently been remembered. The end of this shadow warfare is the ownership of memory and history. Elevation Pais, the prima left-of-centre day-to-day in Spain, argued that the new law was necessary to convey about the concluding de-Francoing of Spanish society. 'The historical memory is the memory of a violated and buried democracy. This law sets Spanish democracy at the same degree as the remainder of Europe's democracies that suffered from fascism.'

Julio Arostegui, a professor of modern-day history in Madrid, believes that society still necessitates to face the bequest of the civil war, but stays to be convinced that this law is the answer. 'The law is important, the job is important. But this job could have got been solved without this law - by decree. We could have got repaired the harm to the victims without it. But now there is no turning back. What everyone who opposes the law states is that it interrupts with the spirit of the passage [from Franco's absolutism to democracy]. And there is a big subdivision of the population, particularly on the right, that believes we should not speak about the past and reopen old wounds.'

But unfastened old lesions it will. Even those who support the rule of the law - like the relations of the poet and dramatist Federico Garcia Lorca, shot by a patriot fire squad in August 1936 - are doubtful about what the law can realistically accomplish and about its practicalities, not least its support for determination and gap the mass Graves - in one of which Garcia Garcia Lorca is buried. While the poet's niece, Laura Garcia Lorca, back ups the law's long-delayed acknowledgment of the nationalists' crimes, she experiences the renewed attempts to place where the dead are buried, which began again at the end of the 1990s, have got now go politicised.

'I desire to state that the issue of disinterment is being used to do a political point by saying that disinterment is the "progressive" position, and not doing it is "conservative". Behind our wishing to go forth Lorca's organic structure where it is, there is no purpose of silencing... not wanting to know, or not wanting to speak about the horror of these crimes. Not at all.'

Although she believes that the new law is a utile measure towards a tardy reconciliation, she is not certain whether it can accomplish what it put out to do. 'I believe there are reparations that demand to be made. [Statues] of Franco, and the name calling of the streets [with Franco-era names] should be removed. The dead should be acknowledged. But there are issues that are going to be very hard to heal.'

Journalist Emilio Silva, caput of the Association for the Recovery of Historic Memory, which drafted the first version of the new law in 2002, have no such as doubts. In 2000 he finally identified his grandfather's grave site. 'For 25 old age of democracy my grandfather was lying unidentified in a mass grave. I believe this law is important, because for over 30 old age after the end of Franco's absolutism in Spain, our parliament have not spoken about the victims of the civil war. Thousands of people suffered repression. There are perhaps 150,000 lacking people in mass Graves in all of Spain. In a state with a mature democracy, I believe it is of import to take duty for repairing the harm of the dictatorship.

'After the absolutism ended, we had the first municipal elections when the political political parties that had been cloak-and-dagger during the absolutism took power. Then the relations of the lacking Republicans said OK, this is the minute to look for our parents and relatives. And they started to open up the mass Graves in the North of Spain, in Lanthanum Rioja. Then this societal motion grew.'

It was short-lived, however. After the attempted coup d'etat in 1981, when a grouping of civil guards took over the parliament, attempts to delve into Spain's past were largely abandoned for a additional two decades. 'The left-wing parties,' said Silva, 'also saw these households [looking for their dead] as an obstruction to the procedure of the Restoration of democracy. So the narrative of the victims of Franco's absolutism was buried in a ditch. They forgot the rights of these people.'

The Law of Historic Memory have been pushed through parliament in big measurement by a Socialist deputy, Jose Andres Torres Mora, one of whose relations was a priest killed by Republican soldiers and recognised as a 'martyr' by the Vatican Palace last week.

'It is a familiar narrative in Spain, where people had relations in both the patriot and Republican armies,' states Silva. 'There still makes not be in Kingdom Of Spain today any general agreement on the significance of the civil warfare or of Franco's times. One of the most of import things [I trust will come up out of this new law] is a argument in Spanish society. We are a state that have been very damaged by the absolutism of Franco.

'I believe this new law will be very helpful. But for me it is very difficult to understand how a democratic political political party like the Popular party cannot reprobate the dictatorship. Spanish society necessitates a large conservative political party that is anti-Francoist. And still today it is hard to happen people in the PP who reprobate Franco.'

And it is still possible to happen those who worship him. In a second-floor flat,the old work force of the Francisco Franco Foundation be given the fire in a room full of portraits, flops and written documents relating to the dictator's life. 'We believe that it is a political law,' states Felix Morales, vice-president of the foundation. 'It interrupts the day-to-day life of Spaniards absolutely. It is against history. It is undoubtedly bringing a feeling of bitterness back to Kingdom Of Spain - the same division felt during the civil war. We accept that there should be acknowledgment of the Republican dead. We thought that there had been reconciliation. We can only ask, why now? Why is it necessary now, 32 old age after Franco's death?'

Perhaps the reply is that lone now is Kingdom Of Kingdom Of Spain feeling courageous adequate to face Francisco Francisco Francisco Francisco Francisco Francisco Franco again.

Debate on the past

The new laws

Recognise the rights of those who suffered during the Civil War and reprobate Franco's regime.

Abolish laws passed during the government to order sentences.

Provide better fiscal benefits to the households of the victims of Franco.

Allow business of land to place mass graves.

Force local government to take symbols of the Franco regime.

Ban political mass meetings at the Valley of the Fallen, which includes Franco's mausoleum.

Provide free entree to public written documents and files.

And how Spain reacted

'There are many memories but just one history. A law of this type is not the best tool to unify them.' ABC, conservative national newspaper

'This law makes not seek to convey back to life the shade of the two Spains but to set up the prevalence of the democratic rules above a statute law that was constructed during an illicit government.' Manuel Rico, writer

'The law is constructed by people who identified themselves with criminals. If they were more than sympathetic with the guiltless people they would not go through this law. Democracy in Kingdom Of Spain come ups from the Francisco Franco era, not from the resistance to the regime.' Revisionist historiographer Pio Moa, formerly of the Maoist terrorist grouping Grapo, and writer of Myths of the Civil War

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