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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 October, 2003, 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK
Franco's ghost still haunts Spain
By Katya Adler
BBC, Madrid

One thing you notice pretty quickly, when you come to live in Spain is just how powerful an influence the Franco era still has over people's consciousness.

Franco's dictatorship only ended 28 years ago. Spanish democracy is still very young.

Felix Peres, Franco foundation's vice-president
The foundation has turned a Madrid flat into a Franco shrine
So news that the conservative Spanish Government has awarded an extremely generous grant to the Franco Foundation, chaired by Franco's daughter, has - not surprisingly - met with public and political outrage.

Felix Peres, the foundation's vice-president, proudly showed me around the dimly-lit Madrid flat which has been turned into a Franco shrine.

In every corner are books, large oil paintings and glass display cabinets filled with military medals and black and white photos - all dedicated to the memory of Francisco Franco.

The government grant ostensibly only pays for the upkeep of the foundation's archive.

The (ruling) Partido Popular is making it clear just how much nostalgia it has for a black, black period in our country's past
Carmen Choce
Socialist Party
But critics say it is appalling that Spanish tax-payers - many of whom had suffered under the fascist dictator - are funding a foundation set up to glorify his memory.

"By giving the Franco Foundation one of its largest public grants, the (ruling) Partido Popular is making it clear just how much nostalgia it has for a black, black period in our country's past," said Carmen Choce of the Spanish Socialist Party.

The Partido Popular certainly counts a number of the children of men who served the Franco regime in its ranks but it dismisses as ridiculous any accusation that it yearns for a return to the "good old days" of Franco.

General Franco
Franco's dictatorship spanned nearly four decades
That said, it was virtually impossible to find a member of the party to talk on this subject to the BBC.

Finally I pinned down Gustavo de Aristegui, a foreign policy spokesman for the party, rushing to a vote at the Spanish Parliament.

He made it quite clear that he did not share the values of the Franco Foundation but, he said, in a democracy, it had as much right as any other foundation to apply for public funding.

But the Franco controversy spreads far beyond the world of politics in Spain, reaching classrooms all over the country.
I think this country must have been wonderful under Franco. In those days Spain was safe for it citizens - unlike now
16-year-old boy
A class of 16-year-olds in Madrid told me the whole Franco topic was about a lot more than a history lesson to them.

One girl said she and her friends often had arguments between those who thought Franco did a lot of good to the country and others who thought he was the worst thing that happened to Spain.

Another told me how Franco had ruined the feelings Spaniards had for their national flag.

"We can't be proud of ours," she said. "The Spanish flag has become a sign of intolerant nationalism."

Franco supporter at rally
Franco still has his fans
Quite a few of the teenagers said they thought Franco had been good for Spain.

"I think this country must have been wonderful under Franco," said one boy. "In those days Spain was safe for it citizens - unlike now."

Certainly democracy is about hearing both sides of the story and a government arguably has a duty to help preserve all parts of the past.

But Franco opponents point to the lack of equality in government funding.

Miranda de Ebro, for example, is the site of the largest of the 104 prison camps run by the Franco regime.

Fifty-thousand people passed through its gates over 10 years.

Refugees flee war
Critics say taxpayers who suffered are supporting Franco foundation
All that remains is the ruins of two unmarked buildings, probably guard houses.

To get there I had to walk along a dusty rail track to a weed-infested site behind an ugly industrial estate.

Quite a contrast then to visit Franco's tomb, run by Spain's government-funded National Heritage Trust.

The stark and grandiose mausoleum was commissioned by Franco to be his final resting place and was partially built by the slave labour of some of his political opponents.

Officially, these days, Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen) is a tribute to those who fell on both sides of the Spanish civil war.

Fresh flowers

But the Basilica holds only two tombs - that of the founder of the Fascist Falange - Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera and of course that of Franco himself.

The Franco Foundation pays for fresh flowers to be kept on his grave, adding to the disgust of its opponents.

Towering on top of a mountain overlooking the Spanish capital, Franco's tomb serves as a reminder that even 28 years since the end of his dictatorship, many Spaniards are still struggling to come out from the long dark shadow of the Franco legacy.

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