Spain's government has called for Francisco Franco's body to be removed from a mausoleum in the Valley of the Fallen. Franco's family and far-right supports oppose the move and have rushed to visit the dictator's tomb.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's Socialist government has called for the exhumation of Francisco Franco's remains, despite conservative complaints that decree-law should only be used for national emergencies.
Sanchez ousted conservative Mariano Rajoy in a June no-confidence vote, and has made his vow to remove Franco's remains one of his government's headline policies. "Spain can't allow symbols that divide Spaniards," he said.
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Friday's decision is likely to draw legal challenges from Franco's descendants, but Culture Minister Jose Guiroa said Tuesday that the government believes it has enough cross-party support to get the decree through parliament.
The remains of the dictator, who rose to power in 1936, have lain in a basilica 50 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of Madrid since his death in 1975. The monument is in what is known as the Valley of the Fallen.
The site, built in part by political prisoners, also holds the mostly anonymous remains of 30,000 dead from Spain's 1936-1939 civil war, along with Franco ally Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, the founder of the fascist Spanish Falange party.
In June, Socialist Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said the mausoleum should be turned into a place of "reconciliation" for Spaniards still coming to terms with the dictator's brutal legacy.
A draft law tabled in December by the-then opposition Socialists also called for the creation of a truth commission.
Franco's mausoleum is seen on Spain's left as a repulsive symbol. But officials in the Popular Party, now led by Pablo Casado, have accused the Socialists of unnecessarily dwelling on the past.
In June, the centrist party Ciudadanos said it was open to removing Franco's remains. The anti-establishment party Podemos has also welcomed the initiative.
Podemos official Pablo Echenique said it was wrong for the remains of a "genocidal dictator" to remain "in a giant mausoleum while there are tens of thousands of dead in mass graves." He was referring to the some 114,000 bodies of the victims of the civil war and of Franco's first years of rule that are still in unmarked graves across the country.
Spain's national heritage agency, which runs the mausoleum, said recently the site was visited in July by some 38,000 people, compared to 23,000 in July last year.
ipj/sms (AFP, AP, KNA, dpa)