MADRID (Reuters) – The Spanish government approved on Tuesday a 665,000 euro ($780,000) fund for the exhumation of graves at “The Valley of the Fallen”, where 30,000 victims of the Spanish Civil War and General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship lie buried.
The left-wing coalition government promised state-funded exhumation of the bodies of victims of war and the dictatorship to help families bury their relatives in civilian cemeteries alongside their loved ones.
Those buried in the crypts and ossuaries at the Franco-era site include many from the losing Republican side whose bodies were moved there during Franco’s rule without permission of their families. Some of those families have spent decades calling for the right to exhume remains from the site.
Government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero said the government had so far received more than 60 exhumation requests from relatives for the site.
“For the Spanish government it is essential to comply with these requests and to locate and exhume the corresponding remains,” Montero told a news conference.
The government intends to transform the “The Valley of the Fallen” into a civil cemetery that will hold the remains of people killed on both sides of the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War, in which Franco’s fascist forces defeated leftist Republicans.
Aside from the actual exhumation and forensic efforts, the works will involve scientific studies and repairs to ensure preservation of the remaining ossuaries, Montero said.
More than 45 years after Franco’s death, his legacy remains a divisive issue in Spain, especially following the rise of the hard-right Vox party in the past few years.
The government has taken a series of steps to remove dictatorship-era symbols, including moving Franco’s remains in 2019 from the massive mausoleum at “The Valley of the Fallen” he had built for himself to a small family crypt.($1 = 0.8527 euros)
(Reporting by Emma Pinedo and Andrei Khalip; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)