Spain´s most heavily populated region yesterday announced plans to step up the search for remains of people who went missing during the 1936-39 civil war.
Under a draft law passed by the cabinet of the left-wing regional government of Andalucia, the state will be able to temporarily expropriate land in cases where the owner refuses to allow a search for a mass grave to be carried out on the property.
The southern region, a stronghold of the left, suffered greatly during Spain’s civil war which pitted Franco’s right-wing forces against an elected left-leaning government.
The war ended with Franco assuming power and ruling over Spain as a dictator until his death in 1975.
Although Franco’s regime honoured its own dead, it left opponents buried in unmarked graves scattered across the country.
The regional government of Andalucia estimates that around 60,000 people went missing in the region during the civil war.
Andalucia’s draft law of “democratic memory” also stipulates that statues, street names and other public symbols honouring Franco and his dictatorship should be removed within 18 months.
In a statement the regional government of Andalucia said that if they are not removed within this time, the regional government of Andalucia “will be empowered” to do so itself.
Andalucia argues that the measures in its draft law have the backing of the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances, which last year recommended that Spain uncover the fates of Franco’s victims.
Under a 2007 national law passed by Spain’s previous Socialist PSOE government, central, local and regional governments were required to strip away such publicly displayed symbols related to Franco and his dictatorship but set no timeline.
This is part of the ‘pacto del olvido’, or ‘the pact of forgetting’, that Spain has maintained in the years following the dictator’s death.
Many right-wing local authorities have resisted attempts by campaigners to force them to comply with the legislation.
Campaigners estimate that over 114,000 bodies of people killed during the civil war and Franco’s ensuing four-decade rule are thought to lie unidentified in Spanish mass graves.