The last public statue in Spain of former dictator Francisco Franco has been removed from the gates of the city of Melilla, a Spanish enclave and autonomous city on the northwest coast of Africa.
Without much fanfare, a group of workmen tore down the statue on Tuesday, using a mechanical excavator and heavy drills to chop up the brick platform the statue was on, before lifting it up with a chain around its neck and carrying it inside. . bubble wrap in a van.
The statue, erected in 1978, three years after Franco’s death, commemorated his role as commander of the Spanish Legion in the Rif War, a conflict fought in the 1920s by Spain and France against Berber tribes in the region. mountainous of the Rif in Morocco.
“This is a historic day for Melilla”, said this Monday Elena Fernández Treviño, in charge of education and culture in the enclave, after the local assembly voted to remove the statue, noting that it was “the only statue dedicated to a dictator still in the public sphere in Europe ”.
Only the far-right party Vox voted against the measure, arguing that the statue celebrated Franco’s military role and not his dictatorship, thus the Law of Historical Memory, a 2007 statute that calls for the removal of all symbols related to the Franco regime, should not apply.
The Spanish government has made several high-profile removals in the wake of this law, including seizing the former dictator’s summer palace from his heirs.
The statue in Melilla was removed when Spain turned 40 since a failed military coup by agents of the Civil Guard loyal to Franco, who stormed the parliament and shot over the heads of parliamentarians who were preparing to vote in a new government. .
In a ceremony in parliament where the bullet marks fired exactly four decades ago are still visible, King Felipe VI praised those involved in stopping the coup that ultimately resulted in “the triumph of democracy.”
“Today forty years ago, Spain experienced an extraordinarily serious attack on its democratic system,” the king told parliament, praising his father’s intervention in a crisis that occurred when he himself was only 13 years old.
The former king, Juan Carlos, who abdicated in 2014, was not at the ceremony, despite his central role in stopping the coup. He exiled himself last year after facing mounting questions about the origin of his fortune.
But the coup failed after a decisive response from Juan Carlos, who delivered a televised speech in uniform as commander-in-chief asking the Armed Forces not to support the insurrection.
In an editorial, El Mundo said that the absence of Juan Carlos “due to his own reprehensible errors, should not tarnish the brilliant role he played.”
“He stopped the coup and democracy was strengthened to the point that it is one of the best in the West,” he added.