Spain’s parliament backs bill to commemorate Franco’s victims

Spanish MPs have approved a new law that will commemorate the victims of former dictator Francisco Franco.

The bill was supported by 173 deputies in the Spanish Parliament on Thursday after a long and heated debate. 159 deputies voted against the bill, 14 abstained.

This is Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s latest move to bridge the divide and recognize Spain’s history during the 1930s civil war and Franco’s dictatorship until his death in 1975.

The proposed law, for the first time, puts the burden on the “state” to search for missing victims of the civil war.

About 114,000 people are still missing, and civil movements often take on the responsibility of finding and exhuming victims from mass graves without government funding.

Franco’s remains were removed from his monumental mausoleum near Madrid in 2019..

“[This law] makes our country a better place and finally turns the page on the darkest period in our history,” said Felix Bolaños, the minister overseeing the bill.

Under a new bill, a DNA bank will be set up in Spain to help track, identify and map the victims of the Franco regime.

The so-called “Law of Democratic Memory” will also ban organizations that praise or support the policies and leaders of Spain’s dictatorship.

Any convictions based on political, religious or sexual motives during the dictatorship will be annulled, and a special prosecutor’s office will be created to investigate crimes against humanity during the war.

Previous attempts to prosecute Francoist-era officials in Spain were blocked by the 1977 amnesty law.

The bill is to be submitted to the Spanish Senate for approval and is expected to be finally adopted at the end of this year.

The main right-wing opposition, the People’s Party (PP), has repeatedly accused the government of trying to heal the wounds of the past and says it will repeal the new law if elected in 2023.

A previous law aimed at “historical memory” was approved by Spain’s former socialist government in 2007, but did not receive support from former PP Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

In a heated debate on Thursday, the far-right Vox party said the new law would “divide Spaniards once again”, while the liberal Ciudadanos accused the government of supporting a “selective memory” law.

Opposition to the bill intensified after Prime Minister Sanchez offered concessions to the Basque Bildu party, considered the successor to the political wing of the separatist group ETA.