“Could you imagine a Hitler foundation in Germany?” A recurrent question is heard across Spain as the stakes are raised in the controversy over how to deal with its past of repressive dictatorship. Unlike other countries, Spain still today pays tribute to their former authoritarian leader, Francisco Franco.
A foundation named after the “caudillo” enjoys good health, receiving public funds, whilst enjoying tax benefits. Recently, they even awarded medals of merit to Popular Party MPs.
Different parts of Spanish society repeatedly call for the Fundación Francisco Franco to be banned, but have so far been unsuccessful. The most recent move was made by the Compromís party. Last week, they submitted a proposal in parliament urging the „investigation of illicit activities“ carried out by the organisation, accusing it of praising Franco’s regime.
The Valencian party believes that the existence of the Foundation does not comply with the Spanish Historical Memory Law, passed in 2007 by the Socialist government. The bill finally recognised the victims of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and the subsequent dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. Historians estimate that during the regime (that lasted until 1975), nearly 200,000 people were killed for political reasons and 400,000 people were forced into exile.
However, some steps are being made with the removal of Francoist symbols, which is at last being taken seriously by city mayors such as Madrid’s Manuela Carmena. In the Spanish capital, there are plans to change the names of 27 streets replacing them largely with names of women, exiles and opponents of the repressive regime. Although welcomed, many Madrileños find offense in how late such a measure is.
More than 40 years have passed since the death of the “caudillo”, it is appalling how little Spanish democracy has done in order to deal with its past of a violent and repressive dictatorship. Besides being incapable of restoring justice and compensating victims, successive governments have put little effort into truly remembering the past horrors, contributing to the lingering rift that divides Spanish society today.