Sunday, November 23, 2008

Civil War divisions live on ...

Spain's Franco hailed after civil war abuse probe dropped

23 Nov 2008 15:06:02 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Martin Roberts

MADRID, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Hundreds of people giving Fascist salutes rallied in Madrid on Sunday to mark the death of former Spanish ruler General Francisco Franco, days after a judge gave up an attempt to investigate atrocities during the 1936-39 civil war and the dictatorship that followed.

Many at the rally wore the blue uniform shirt and red beret of the far-right Falange party and other symbols of Franco's regime as they gathered outside the Palacio de Oriente, a former royal palace and site of his last public appearance.

"I am here out of gratitude and homage to those who fell in the war of liberation from Marxism," said Francisca Garcia from Seville, referring to the conflict which followed a rebellion led by Franco and resulted in a dictactorship which only ended with his death in 1975.

Garcia was still smarting at a new law which banned her from wearing her uniform and other political symbols at a mass held at Franco's tomb the day before.

"This goverment is a left-wing dictatorship," she said, then crossed herself as a priest on a stage blessed Franco.

However, a reknowned judge this week dropped attempts to probe the disappearance of 130,000 people, many of them summarily shot by Franco's forces and buried in mass graves.

Prosecutors said the investigation defied a 1977 amnesty law covering the civil war. Conservatives said the move would re-open old wounds.

Judge Baltasar Garzon said he now expected local courts to open 19 mass graves he had identified and exhume remains including those of poet Federico Garcia Lorca.

Garzon came to prominence when he tried to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for human rights crimes, which drew charges of hypocrisy as no one in Spain had been prosecuted on similar grounds.

In contrast to truth commissions set up after Latin American dictatorships such as Argentina and Chile, Spain has shied away from confronting the bloodshed during and after its civil war as it emerged as a prosperous liberal democracy post-Franco.

But relatives who helped compile lists of the disappeared for Garzon say they will continue their long campaign to unearth and identify victims' remains.

"If this door closes in the High Court, we still have the moral argument of so many families who want to find their relatives," said Emilio Silva, president of the Association for the Recovery of Historic Memory. (Reporting by Martin Roberts; Editing by Angus MacSwan)


jennifer said...

Where to begin on this topic, I am unsure. After speaking extensively with my host family and some of their friends I have come to a few conclusions. First- the entire country of Spain is divided as to whether or not these graves should be disturbed. Even Lorca's family doesnt know whether or not they think he should be found. Also, though the entire world seems to believe that Franco's death was a day of celebration in Spain, that is not entirely true. Some Spaniards did not dislike Franco, even more so they loved him. All they wanted to do was live their lives and they didnt find conforming to his tyrannical rule something that was abnormal or difficult. Though I cannot understand this I wouldnt begin to point the finger because after coming here I am even starting to examine my own lifestyle back in the United States. There is no general model for anything in this world, and Spain is now having the difficulty of trying to put the pieces back together in a puzzel that is simply to small.

Matt A said...

Finding and unearthing these mass graves is no easy task. I think everyone can sympathize with the families who are still searching for closure but time has moved forward, the civil war was a long time ago and I feel that digging up these remains would reopen old wounds from a time many in the country just want to forget. I don't think it will happen and I think it will get harder to do as time goes on.

CB said...

The grave issue is hard because I see it as a personal choice. If the family wants their relative to rest as they are that's how they should remain. Equally, if a family wishes to recognize their relative and provide them a proper burial or bury them alongside their loved ones they should be able to as well. However, with mass graves that's not really a probable situation.
I think this issue might show to be too much of a soft spot. Maybe there is a better, more neutral way to acknowledge these dead that could please people on both sides of the situation?

Lauren said...

Although I agree that it is a personal choice whether or not to dig up the graves of family members, at the same time, I believe the ¨Pact of Silence¨ throughout Spain must come to an end sooner or later. If the point of studying history is to learn from the past, then how do these people who had to face the tyrannical ruling of Franco plan to pass on the lesson learned to the next generation?

Cate said...

I have a lot of empathy for the families that have missing loved ones out there. However, I do not think that their bodies should be unearthed. I think that at this point the families should just find peace in letting things lay. Also I agree that Franco's dictatorship is still a point on contention in Spain. There are still people who have strong feelings for or against him. I think Spain needs to start discussing what has happened in their past and move forward. Nothing good is going to come from repressing these subtle tensions.

Micki said...

I cannot agree with what Jennifer has said anymore. My host mother, whom I absolutely adore, is one of those individuals that will still not utter a strictly negative word about the "old ways," rather she will explain that they were simply different. She is explains that in many ways life was simpler, and she felt much safer. With less immigration she explains that there seemed to be less crime and for this fact daily life appeared to be much “safer feeling,” especially for a woman during the dictatorship which spend much time in the home, often times only with the children. It is really difficult to “point a finger” as Jenn has said, simply because I am coming from an entirely different era and an entirely different culture. In closing, and in conjunction with my paper topic, I will say that we need to take the past and the ways of the dictatorship in keep in perspective when we think about just how far Spain has come socially and in such a short time. The past can be dug up in words, but as for the bodies, I am not sure they need to come out of the ground…