MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s government is preparing a bill that will ban the Francisco Franco foundation, which works to defend the image of the late dictator, Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Wednesday.
More than half a million people died during the 1936-39 civil war and an estimated 150,000 were killed by Franco’s regime, while 450,000 were forced to leave Spain, historians estimate.
But public opinion is still divided over the legacy of the dictatorship that ended with Franco’s death in 1975.
“We will ban and make illegal the foundations that defend the Francoist dictatorship, like, for instance, the Francisco Franco foundation,” Sanchez told lawmakers on Wednesday.
The Francisco Franco foundation’s president, Juan Chicharro Ortega, said the ban would be a violation of the constitution.
“That law is nothing but an attempt to divert Spanish people’s attention from the government’s disastrous handling of the (coronavirus) pandemic and the thousands of deaths,” he told Reuters.
Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo had said on Tuesday that the bill would ban glorification of the dictatorship by public or publicly-funded institutions.
Chicharro Ortega insisted the foundation, which was founded in 1976 by sympathizers after Franco’s death, doesn’t receive any public funding and is only financed by donations.
Sanchez’ government has taken a series of steps to remove dictatorship-era symbols, including last year removing Franco’s remains from a massive mausoleum near Madrid he had built for himself in a place called “The Valley of the Fallen”.
The ‘democratic memory’ bill also intends to finance the exhumation of the bodies of victims of war and the dictatorship buried in mass graves, Calvo told reporters.
Last week, a court ruled in favor of the government in a dispute against the late dictator’s heirs over the ownership of a palace in the northern region of Galicia.
(Reporting by Inti Landauro; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)