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The BBC's Jo Episcopo
"For almost four decades, Franco ruled Spain with an iron fist"
 real 28k

Saturday, 18 November, 2000, 13:43 GMT
A far cry from Franco
franco's funeral
Europe's last Fascist dictatorship ended with Franco's death
By Jo Episcopo

In the early morning of 20 November 1975, Spanish state radio announced the death of General Francisco Franco, the man who had headed the longest military dictatorship in western Europe.

For almost four decades Franco dominated Spanish political life, but a quarter of a century on, the isolated and inward looking country he left behind has changed radically.

franco on balcony
Franco greets a crowd shortly before his death
Its people are now fiercely pro-European, its economy strong and its democracy fully consolidated.

Spain has come a long way from the dark days of the Franco dictatorship.

One of the most successful changes has been the devolution of power to the regions.

General Franco was a fervent Spanish nationalist, and under his regime the Basque, Catalan and Galician languages were all banned and all political opposition outlawed.

As a result thousands of intellectuals and prominent figures were forced into exile.

But in 1978 Spain's new constitution created one of the most federal countries in Europe.

Today each of the 17 regions has its own President, government, Supreme Court and flag. Powerful nationalist parties like the Basque and Catalan nationalists govern their own regions with extensive controls over education, policing and taxes.

Social changes

Spanish social life has undergone dramatic changes in a very short time.

spanish fan at euro 2000
For young people there have been dramatic changes
A movement known as "la Movida Madrilena" evolved in the Spanish capital Madrid, embodied by a then unknown film director called Pedro Almodovar.

In his first film "Pepi, Luci and Bom" Almodovar celebrated the new-found liberties, portraying the hedonistic culture and sexual freedoms of the era as Spaniards rushed to catch up with the lifestyle enjoyed by other countries in the west.

One critic, more used to the Catholic conservatism of Franco's Spain than the liberating spirit of Almodovar said it was if the director had come from Mars.

There are still some shadows left from the regime, most notably the unresolved violent conflict in the Basque region as the radical separatist group ETA continues its bloody fight for independence.

Democracy

Although ETA's fight, which has claimed more than 800 lives in the last 30 years, is not a direct result of the Franco years it was undoubtedly exacerbated by years of repression.

Anti-ETA rally
ETA's separatist fight a grim legacy of the regime
For the generation of Spanish people born since Franco's death, democracy is simply taken for granted and the figure of Franco just someone who their parents talk about.

Their country is a fully fledged member of the European Union, conscription has been phased out, young people travel and learn foreign languages.

They are interested in issues from the developing world and they are more concerned with their economic future than their political rights.

It is all a far cry from the days when many of their parents fought for democracy.

But as one Spaniard who belonged to the anti-Franco movement told me: "Twenty-five years on, we really achieved our dreams".

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See also:

20 Nov 00 | Media reports
King Juan Carlos: Life after Franco
30 Oct 00 | Europe
ETA: Key events
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