Spaniards Told to Be Grateful for Franco, 30 Years after His Death

Article excerpt

A book praising General Francisco Franco, the former Spanish dictator whose regime executed tens of thousands of opponents, has become a bestseller as Spain prepares to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of El Caudillo (The Leader).

Franco: A historical review, by Pio Moa, has become a success despite repeating claims that Franco brought peace, prosperity and stability to Spain after the Civil War and ushered in its modern- day democracy.

'Franco should receive the gratitude and recognition of the majority of Spaniards,' he writes. 'He left a prosperous and politically moderate country. The past 30 years of democracy have been possible thanks to that.' But Moa, who is criticised by fellow historians as nothing more than a Franco apologist, is by no means a lone voice in Spain as it attempts to confront what is still a painful anniversary.

Writing in the right-leaning Epoca magazine, Ricardo de la Cierva said: 'Today in Spain we have a large middle class thanks to regime of General Franco.'

The fascist dictator died, aged almost 83, of natural causes on 20 November 1975 after 36 years in power. Despite being described by the artist Salvador Dali as a 'saint' after the two met, Franco lacked the charisma of his contemporary 20th century dictators. But his spectre still casts a long shadow over Spain.

Spain is already preparing to mark the anniversary with every kind of memorabilia " from unseen television film of the dictator's last days to a series of books timed to cash in and even programmes tracing those who queued to pay their respects at his coffin.

Thousands of Franco's original followers plus younger members of extreme right-wing groups are expected to pay homage at the Valley of the Fallen, the vast, underground mausoleum built in the mountains 30 miles from Madrid using forced labour.

There, they will lay wreaths and offer fascist salutes, as they do every year. Others will remember the general with somewhat less affection.

Many are angry Spain's Socialist government has failed, by the 30th anniversary of his death, to fulfil a promise to find justice for those persecuted or killed under the Franco regime. When Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's party won the general election last year it was the first government to promise justice for those who lost their loved ones under the fascist regime.

Since Franco's death, during the transition to democracy, a pact of silence has existed, with many sections of Spanish society preferring to move on rather than look back. But Mr Zapatero's government was determined to deal with the open wounds that still exist in Spain's collective memory. It set up the Commission for the Study of the Situation of the Victims of the Civil War and Francoism to examine each case. …