LONG LIVE FRANCO AFTER SAVIOUR’S GRAVE DESECRATED BY LEFTISTS

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‘Long live Franco’ and ‘Desecrators’ were painted in graffiti on the Madrid statue of the founder of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, Pablo Iglesias, on Thursday. In another part of the city, a monument dedicated to the international brigades, who fought against Franco’s troops during the Spanish Civil War, was defaced with pro-Franco slogans and the words ‘Death to Communists.’

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“Long live Franco” and “Desecrators” were painted in graffiti on the Madrid statue of the founder of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, Pablo Iglesias, on Thursday.

The link to the exhumation and transfer of the remains of General Francisco Franco, overseen by today’s Socialist Workers Party regime, was obvious. Yet such a response hardly chimed with acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s aim in carrying out the procedure. The Spanish premier is hanging on to a shaky coalition by his fingertips.

In his statement after the exhumation at Madrid’s vast Valley of the Fallen, Sr. Sánchez described it as ‘another step in the reconciliation’ of Spaniards, so many of whom had been divided into left and right by the civil war and ensuing dictatorship.

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The decision to move Franco’s body to a quiet cemetery was always likely to provoke a fierce reaction and so it proved. A swastika pendant around his neck, Chema Quijada gathered with other Franco supporters at Mingorrubio cemetery to protest against the initiative.

‘Ever since the transition [to faux democracy] until now, all the political parties have betrayed us,’ he said. ‘They have falsified history. They don’t want new generations to understand Spain’s history.’

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José Antonio, a retired mechanic from the southern Spanish city of Granada, decided this week to say the last goodbye to Francisco Franco. So he drove the five-and-a-half hours to the basilica of the Valley of the Fallen, a giant complex near Madrid that the former dictator ordered carved out of the rock, from which Franco’s remains may soon be moved.

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José Antonio recalls the days when you could walk safely down the street.’ He was far from alone in his sentiments. On the same morning this week, a man from the Rioja region gave the Fascist salute at Franco’s tomb, which was covered by so many fresh bouquets of flowers that the inscription was barely visible. Several people placed medallions and time pieces on the stone slab, as if to be imbued with the dictator’s spirit, then snatched them up and held them close.

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Such sights may soon become a thing of the past. Spain’s Supreme Court ruled last week that there should be no impediment to disinterring the body of Franco from the state-owned site, dismissing a legal action by the dictator’s grandchildren.

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The Valley of the Fallen is a memorial to the war dead on both sides and contains the remains of 33,000 people, but the only marked graves are those of Franco and José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the founder of the fascist Falange, who was shot by Spanish Republicans in 1936.

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Mr Sánchez wanted to proceed with the exhumation of Franco, whose 36-year governance ended only with his natural death in 1975, before Spain’s general election on November 10.

The leader regarded as the hero who saved Spain from a fate similar to that of Bolshevik Occupied Russia is now reburied next to his wife, Carmen Polo, in a private family crypt on the outskirts of Madrid, at which police are permanently stationed.

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But the question is whether, rather than closing a chapter, Sr Sánchez’s plans inflame old tensions. ‘What will be next?’ Isabel Díaz Ayuso, who heads the centre-right-led government of the greater Madrid region, asked on Thursday. ‘Will the parish churches burn again like in 1936?’ (Republicans were as notorious for burning churches to the ground as were the Soviet Bolsheviks).

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The Francisco Franco foundation, which stores 33,000 documents related to the late dictator and sells Franco merchandise ranging from wine to CDs, has called on its supporters to pray ‘for his soul and all those who fell for Spain’ at the Valley this Saturday.

It had also written to Pope Francis, asking him not to allow the exhumation team access to the basilica without the consent of the Franco family and the Benedictine monks who run the complex.

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Sr. Sánchez’s stance has also been attacked by the anti-migrant popular Vox party, which won 10 per cent in Spain’s elections in April.

Juan Chicharro, president of the Franco foundation and a retired general in the Spanish marines, said that Vox was a ‘hope, a light, for many Spanish people’.

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He depicts the far-right party as a true heir to Franco’s tradition, which he describes as anti-communism, commitment to the unity of Spain and respect for the country’s age-old Christian traditions.

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Some commentators suggest that the planned exhumation of Franco’s remains could help Vox in next month’s election, called after Sr. Sánchez failed to cobble together a government, while also paying dividends for the caretaker prime minister.

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It is still not clear how the government will repurpose the Valley of the Fallen now that Franco has been removed from it. It could be that the Sánchez administration, rather than simply riling the far-right by exhuming the country’s dictator, has raised the expectations of many others.

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