Spain starts closing Franco sympathisers' foundation

June 20, 2024 11:01 AM EDT

FILE PHOTO: A supporter of late Spanish dictator Francisco Franco holds a sign near Mingorrubio-El Pardo cemetery, in Madrid, Spain, October 24, 2019. REUTERS/Susana Vera/File Photo

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's government has begun closing down the Francisco Franco foundation, a non-profit organisation set up by sympathisers of the late dictator, Culture Minister Ernest Urtasun said on Thursday.

The "democratic memory" law approved in 2022 by Spain's Socialist government prohibits any organisation that is seen to glorify or promote the 1939-1975 Franco regime.

A judge will make the final ruling on closing the National Francisco Franco Foundation, the Culture Ministry said in a statement.

The law aims to make reparations to victims of the dictatorship and the three-year civil war that preceded it, in which more than half a million people died.

Historians estimate that around 150,000 people were killed by Franco's government, while 450,000 were forced to leave the country.

"This is something we've owed for quite some time to the victims' associations, who were asking us to begin this procedure," Urtasun said in an interview on La Sexta television.

The foundation did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Its president, Juan Chicharro Ortega, told Reuters in 2020 that a ban would be a violation of the constitution.

The foundation was created in 1976 to promote the study of Franco's life and achievements, according to its website.

Spain transitioned to democracy after Franco's death in 1975, but the legacy of his dictatorship still divides society.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez' government has taken a series of steps to remove dictatorship-era symbols. In 2019 it exhumed Franco's remains from a mausoleum near Madrid that he had built for himself. They were reburied in a private vault in the Mingorrubio cemetery north of Madrid.

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo; Editing by Charlie Devereux and Frances Kerry)

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