September 29, 2020

The Government’s plan for Historical Memory includes the banning of Francoist associations and the exhuming of graves throughout Spain

The Government of Spain faces the Historical Memory with a roadmap that starts from renewing the 2007 law and culminates in a national plan for the exhumations of mass graves. To take up the challenge, the Executive has just activated a call for grants with a budget of 750,000 euros. The aid covers from the search for forced disappeared – 60% of the total – to research projects, with amounts from 5,000 euros to a maximum of 30,000. It has done so after the last Council of Ministers before the summer break, to which it has not finally risen the draft of the new Democratic Memory law, as announced by the first vice president, Carmen Calvo.

It remains to be seen how the delay affects the parliamentary procedure scheduled for next fall, but the new legal text will activate issues such as the illegalization of fascist foundations, the criminalization of the apology of Francoism or the knowledge in schools of the coup repression. It also seeks to facilitate the search for forced disappeared or create a state DNA bank, in addition to creating a sanctioning regime, facilitating access to files or resignifying the Valley of the Fallen.

“The Democratic Memory is a compulsory State policy, a public action that connects with Human Rights,” declared the First Vice President of the Government, Minister of the Presidency, Relations with the Courts and Democratic Memory, Carmen Calvo, during an institutional visit to the archaeological excavation in the Pico Reja grave in Seville. The Government announced that it will collaborate in the work with “just over a quarter of a million euros” to rescue and identify the victims.

The new standard

The serious violations of Human Rights committed by Francoism, and still to be resolved, make Spain an anomaly pointed out by organizations such as the United Nations. Resolving the matter is a priority for the Government of the PSOE and United We can that it dozes, in some way, under issues such as the coronavirus crisis or the lack of an adequate financial envelope, which depends on the approval of the next state budget.

In the Congress of Deputies there is already a proposal from the Socialist Party itself to improve the legislation. But the current Executive of Pedro Sánchez has gone one step further and is working on the draft of a new Democratic Memory law.

Spain will assume the recommendations of the UN and one of the novelties will be the entry of the memorial content in Education, so that the study of the Francoist repression serves as a promotion of the culture of peace and the pedagogy of Human Rights, as El País advanced.

The future regulations will not set aside the victims’ claims, such as the annulment of the judgments of Francoist courts, penalizing the apology of fascism or declaring associations linked to the dictatorship illegal, in the case of the Franco Foundation. Or withdraw ‘post mortem’ the decorations to the Francoist ex-police Antonio González Pacheco, alias ‘Billy el Niño’, who passed away with coronavirus last May. The text will regulate in a more effective way the rights and obligations that it promotes and will also establish a sanctioning regime for eventual breaches.

Open mass graves

A crucial step will be to activate the works in Francoist graves throughout the country. The call for aid aimed “at activities related to the recovery of the Democratic Memory and the victims of the Civil War and the Dictatorship” that the BOE published this Wednesday put the focus on the search for enforced disappearances. One of the lines of subsidies points to projects of “investigation, location, exhumation and identification of disappeared persons in graves”. These works will have 16,000 euros, an amount that rises to 30,000 when “there is reliable evidence that the remains that are to be recovered belong to a number greater than ten people”.

It also includes the “dignity” of these illegal burials and “of the graves of people who died in exile.” Spain “is the only important democracy in the world that has mass graves with disappeared and entire families, some very old people, hoping not to die thinking that their parents, grandparents, and relatives are unidentified and without the dignity that corresponds to a democracy “as Vice President Carmen Calvo stated.

The Government of Spain, advised by forensic anthropologist Francisco Etxeberria, commissioned a report to find out the state of the graves at the state level, to which had access. The study calculates that the country is in a position to rescue the skeletal remains of a quarter of the at least 114,226 victims of Francoism and identify a maximum of 7,000 people.

To face this reality, the Executive also intends that all public administrations assume the search for the forced disappeared. Memory understood as a duty of the State, in line with the criteria required by the United Nations. Opening the Francoist graves will be tied to the creation of a national census of victims and a DNA bank.

Recover public subsidies

The call for aid recovered by the Government of Spain is aimed at memorial and Human Rights associations, universities, foundations and private non-profit entities. The regulatory bases of the subsidy plan indicate “studies and investigations” related to the recovery of the Democratic Memory and the “moral recognition of the victims”, with a maximum amount of 12,000 euros.

Publications and the organization of courses, workshops, conferences or exhibitions, with an amount of up to 5,000 euros, may also be accepted. Also the “collection, preservation, study and dissemination of documentary heritage”, from photographs, posters and sound recordings to films or artistic, musical and literary manifestations. These activities will be subsidized up to 10,000 euros.

The Government of Spain takes advantage of the initiative, because “those policies suffered a sudden stop from 2011”. The lack “of economic appropriation in the successive General State Budgets” reached 2018, when “public policies were resumed” led by the creation of a General Directorate for Historical Memory “for the first time in our democratic history.”

“The Government will work intensely to regain the dignity of the victims of Francoism,” according to the vice president and minister of Democratic Memory. Because the country’s main debt is with family members “who, for so many years, in silence, have been waiting for the State to respond to a main, human right, which is to be able to identify their loved ones to restore their honor and.


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