New Spanish bill aims to outlaw glorification of Franco era

MADRID (AP) — The Spanish government is proposing a new bill that would ban a foundation promoting the legacy of Gen. Francisco Franco as well as offer reparations to the victims of the late dictator, among other long-standing unresolved issues from the country’s recent past.

The so-called ‘Law on Democratic Memory' has been a key electoral promise of Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez, who last year completed during his first short term as prime minister the exhumation and relocation of Franco’s remains from a public mausoleum.

Sánchez is now in a left-wing coalition with the far-left United We Can (Unidas Podemos) party, and his Cabinet on Tuesday approved the new bill's draft. It builds on an existing law from 2007 that relatives of victims of the 1936-39 Civil War and the ensuing dictatorship regarded as insufficient.

It could take months for the draft to be tweaked and the law to go through various layers of parliamentary approval.

One of the most controversial aspects will be the prohibition of organizations that benefit from public funding or tax cuts while defending Francoism.

Juan Chicharro, president of the Francisco Franco Foundation, said the government was trying to “divert attention from real problems,” with a bill that he regards as “totalitarian” and “distorting of history.”

“It’s no longer an issue about whether our foundation gets banned or not, it’s about defending freedom,” said Chicharro, whose foundation was founded in 1976 by Franco’s sympathizers upon his death. “Doesn’t the Spanish Constitution allow us to think freely?”

Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo, who has been the main force behind the bill, said last week that providing dignity for Franco's victims was “very, very important.”

Those foundations, she said, “are precisely the contrary to the entrenchment and deepening of the democracy we are at the moment.”

More than 500,000 people died in the war between rebel nationalist forces led by Franco and defenders of a short-lived Spanish republic. Franco declared victory on April 1, 1939, and ruled with an iron fist until his death in 1975. More than 110,000 victims from the war and his dictatorship remain unidentified.