Spain has set a date for the exhumation of late dictator Gen. Francisco Franco, thus potentially ending decades of controversy about the location of his tomb within a vast, triumphal state-financed mausoleum, and also selected a spot for his reburial, the government said Friday.
Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said the Cabinet had fixed the date as June 10 and the place at a more modest family crypt in Mingorrubio cemetery in El Pardo, 25 kilometers (15 miles) northwest of Madrid, where Franco's wife is buried.
"There will be no media present, no images, no public announcement," Calvo said, adding that Franco's grandchildren will have the possibility of performing "an intimate ceremony" only open to family members in order to protect their privacy.
The government has consequently given the green light to an exhumation without waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on an appeal lodged by Franco's family who has insisted that if the body was to be moved, it had to be for a reburial inside Madrid’s Cathedral which forms part of the downtown Royal Palace.
Franco’s family, who have enjoyed a privileged existence since the dictator’s death, boasting aristocratic titles and living in grace and favor estates in some of Spain’s most beautiful sites, had objected to the exhumation by lodging two appeals in the Supreme Court.
The court said the exhumation should not be delayed, but it retained the right to have a final say on the legality of the exhumation and reburial after consulting with the church and relatives.
The deputy PM acknowledged the court retained the legal right to postpone the burial, which was approved by Parliament, if it decides to reopen an appeal.
Another sticking point could be that Spain is to hold a general election on April 28 which could see a change of government.
The dictator’s massive mausoleum, called the Valley of the Fallen, lies about 55 kilometers northwest of Madrid near the mountain town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial and is one of the most potent symbols of Franco’s divisive 36-year dictatorship as well as a revered site for those who backed his regime or those who feel a nostalgia for his rule having been influenced by the undertow of fascism.
The vast memorial, built on a very visible setting in the foothills of the imposing, granite Guadarrama Mountains, is topped by a cross that can be seen from many miles away.
The whole complex, which includes a monastery to care for the glittering basilica where the tomb is placed, was paid for by the Spanish state and built over two decades using the forced labor of thousands of defeated Republican prisoners.
Spain’s government has long held that the immense, triumphalist monument, "did not help towards the coexistence of Spaniards."
The United Nations has repeatedly admonished Spain for not complying with its human rights obligations when it comes to restoring justice to Republican victims of the Civil War and failing to end the impunity enjoyed by officials who committed crimes against humanity during the dictatorship's so-called White Terror, which saw the execution of between 200,000-400,000 of Franco's opponents, according to estimates by various historians.
The Mingorrubio cemetery lies five kilometers northeast of El Pardo royal palace, the luxurious setting Franco chose as his official residence on the outskirts of the capital.
Spain’s army has large military barracks in the town.
In 1936, Franco led a military coup to topple a democratically-backed Republican government with the support of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany and Benito Mussolini's Fascist Italy.
After the ensuing Civil War, which ended in 1939, Franco ruled Spain with an iron fist until his death of natural causes in 1975.
By Harold Heckle