Melilla enclave removes last statue of fascist dictator on Spanish soil

Workers remove Franco's statue in Melilla on 23 February 2021
The far-right Vox party had argued against removing the statue

The last statue of General Francisco Franco on Spanish soil has been removed, after the tiny enclave of Melilla voted to take down its monument to the fascist dictator.

Workers destroyed the brink plinth and carried away the statue, which had stood at the gates of the city on the north-west coast of Africa. Only the far-right Vox party in Melilla had voted against its removal, General Franco ruled Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975. More than 30,000 people were killed in the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War, which saw Franco’s Nationalist forces defeat the Republican government. He then presided over a regime of state terror and national brainwashing through the controlled media and the state education system.

It was not until 2007 that a Law of Historical Memory was passed that attempted to recognise the suffering of victims of Francoism. Under that law, symbols of the dictatorship have slowly been removed, including other high-profile statues around Spain. Elena Fernandez Trevino, of the Melilla assembly, described the removal of the enclave’s Franco statue as an “historic day”. She said it was the “only statue dedicated to a dictator still in the public sphere in Europe”. Members of the Vox party had argued against its removal, saying that the statue – erected in 1978 – commemorated Franco’s role as commander of the Spanish Legion in the Rif War, a conflict Spain fought in the 1920s against Berber tribes in Morocco.

Franco was buried in a vast mausoleum called the Valley of the Fallen, just outside Madrid, alongside tens of thousands of people who lost their lives in the civil war. It was partly built by political prisoners, whom Franco’s regime subjected to forced labour, and had become a shrine for the far right. In 2019, his remains were moved to a low-key grave. Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said: “The more than 30,000 victims of both sides will have peace and respect from all there.”

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