The Spanish government plans to make it illegal to glorify the regime of former dictator General Francisco Franco as part of a reform of the country’s criminal code, the Socialist Party said on Monday.
Franco, who ruled Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975, ordered the execution or imprisonment of tens of thousands of his enemies, while as many as 500,000 people died in the preceding civil war. His nationalist legacy still divides Spain and looms large over its political system.
“In a democracy, you don’t pay tribute to dictators or tyrants,” parliamentary spokeswoman Adriana Lastra said.
She did not spell out what would constitute “glorification”.
The government also aims to exhume the bodies of Franco’s victims buried in mass graves and remove any Francoist symbols still on display in public places, Lastra said. In recent years, many street names commemorating Franco and his allies have been changed and public statues removed.
Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, whose left-wing coalition government came to power in January, made addressing the legacy of the dictatorship a pillar of his electoral campaign.
In October, his caretaker government removed the former dictator’s remains from an imposing state mausoleum where he was buried in 1975 and transferred them to a small private cemetery, provoking mixed reactions from across the political spectrum.
The far-right Vox party, which strongly opposed Franco’s exhumation, dismissed the proposed legal reform as a pretext for shutting down free speech.
“With the excuse of ‘glorifying Francoism’ they will shut down the media, foundations, associations and they will make political parties illegal as they see fit,” a twitter account associated to the party said following Lastra’s comments.