Congress committee proposes seizure of Franco estate

Banners hung earlier this month at Pazo de Merais claim former Franco home for Galicia. Photo: Galiza Nova / Público
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• Franco foundation said to use Pazo de Meirás to glorify ex-dictator’s legacy
• Activists say local population forced to pay for ‘gift’ of estate to Franco in 1938

A Spanish Congressional committee reached an unprecedented agreement Wednesday to move forward with a proposal urging the regional Xunta government of Galicia to assume management of former dictator Francisco Franco’s Pazo de Meirás estate in Galicia, currently under the control of the Francisco Franco Foundation and members of the Franco family.

During the dictator’s 36-year-rule of Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975, Franco and his family spent holidays at the Pazo de Meirás estate, which was given to him as a “gift” in 1938, at the height of the Spanish Civil War, when former sympathizers of the Republican government and the local population were forced to contribute money to a special fund to purchase the property. The estate formerly belonged to the family of progressive 19th-century Galician aristocrat and writer Emilia Pardo Bazán.

In recent months, the Francisco Franco Foundation and Franco’s heirs have come under criticism from Galician activists and regional government officials for allegedly using the property to hold events said to honor the former dictator and glorify the triumph of Nationalist forces in the Civil War, in violation of the terms of Spain’s 2007 Law of Historical Memory. Earlier this month, activists of the Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG) entered the property and hung banners reading: “Return to us what was stolen! Franquismo, never again!!!”

The proposal approved by the Culture Committee of Spain’s Congress on Wednesday, which calls for the property to be managed locally by the city of Sada, was presented by Galicia’s  Podemos-affiliated En Marea party and approved as a result of support from deputies of the Socialist party (PSOE) on the committee. Deputies of the conservative governing Partido Popular (PP) abstained on the committee vote.

The proposal is now expected to move forward for full debate on the floor of Congress and while the measure is non-binding, it is seen by supporters as another step forward in the growing movement in Galicia to retake possession of Pazo de Meirás from the Franco family and place the estate in the public domain.

In Galicia, a special commission has been established to consider transitioning ownership and management of the estate from the Franco foundation and family to local government authorities. Activists propose the estate be used as a historical museum and educational facility focused on the Spanish Civil War and Franco-era dictatorship and that it be renamed in honor of its former owner, the Countess Pardo Bazán.

► Read More in Spanish at El Diario and La Opinión A Coruña …

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