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Spain mulls ban on expressions of support for dictator Franco

The Spanish government has approved a bill banning expressions of support for former dictator Francisco Franco.

The proposed Democratic Remembrance Act will also ban organizations that praise the politics and leaders of the Spanish dictatorship of the 20th century.

The socialist-led coalition has long sought to outlaw anyone who supports Franco’s rule and demeans “the dignity of victims of the 1936 coup or the Civil War.”

The bill marks another milestone in the government’s quest to bridge the controversy over Franco’s place in Spanish history, but it is likely to reopen the free speech debate.

Spain wanted to repay Franco’s victims and root out right-wing extremism amid the recent popularity of the far-right Vox party.

Felix Bolaños, the minister overseeing the bill, said it was “the first Spanish law to explicitly condemn and reject a coup … and the dictatorship that followed.”

The dictatorship of the 20th century was “the darkest period in our modern history,” Bolaños added.

Two years ago, the Spanish government ordered the exhumation of Franco’s remains from his mausoleum outside Madrid and arranged for a reburial in a small family crypt north of the capital.

More than 500,000 people died in the war between the rebel nationalist forces led by Franco and the defenders of the short-lived Spanish republic.

Franco declared victory on April 1, 1939, and ruled ruthlessly until his death in 1975. More than 110,000 victims of the war and his dictatorship remain unidentified.

The bill now opens the door to abolishing the high-profile Francisco Franco foundation that promotes the legacy of the former dictator.

Under the law, expressing support for figures and ideas from the Franco era is subject to a maximum fine of EUR 150,000.

The bill also establishes a national DNA bank to help find missing and presumed dead, often in unmarked or mass graves. Nowadays, social movements and families often take responsibility for finding and exhuming victims.

The proposed law also aims to uncover the truth about the persecution and atrocities from the outbreak of the civil war to the adoption of the new 1978 Constitution through the appointment of a special prosecutor.

Franco’s political, religious or sexual convictions will also be overturned. The aristocrats will also be stripped of any titles granted by the dictator.

The “Law on Democratic Remembrance” will now go to the vote in the Spanish Parliament.

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