Spain yesterday exhumed the embalmed body of Francisco Franco from a grandiose state mausoleum ahead of its relocation it to a more discreet grave in a country still conflicted over the dictator’s decades-long regime.
Spaniards are divided over the exhumation, with 43 percent in favour, 32.5 percent against and the rest undecided, according to an El Mundo poll published earlier this month. The long-awaited exhumation process began at around 11:00 am (0900 GMT) with his coffin carried out of the imposing basilica at the Valley of the Fallen some two hours later.
In 2017, the parliament approved a non-binding motion calling for Franco’s remains to be removed from the Valley of the Fallen, but it was ignored by the former conservative government of Mariano Rajoy.
The coffin was carried by eight family members and placed into a hearse and driven to a helicopter where it was to be transferred to a grave just north of Madrid. The hearse drove the coffin several hundred metres to an open plaza where it was transferred to one of two waiting airforce helicopters for the brief flight to El Pardo, some 50 kilometres away. There his body will be reburied alongside that of his wife in Mingorrubio state cemetery.
Some 22 relatives of the late dictator were on hand to witness the opening of the grave near Madrid, which has been a draw for both tourists and right-wing sympathisers. After removing the heavy flagstone on top of the grave, which reportedly weighs some 1,500 kilogrammes (1.5 tonnes), the dilapidated casket was then secured before being extracted, a government spokesman said.