Spain’s Biggest News Outlets Divided on Coverage of Digging Up Former Dictator Franco

Spain’s two largest newspapers, conservative-leaning El Mundo and liberal-leaning El País, have starkly covered the recent decision to exhume, or dig up, former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco’s body from his current grave at the Valley of the Fallen. His living grandchildren have demanded that he be reburied in La Almudena Cathedral in the heart of Madrid with full military honors.

The issue of Franco’s body lying within the Valley of the Fallen monument has been a point of controversy since Franco was initially buried there. The Valley of the Fallen was commissioned by Franco to be a monument for those who perished in the Spanish Civil War. Thousands of unnamed individuals from both sides of the War are buried there.

The Franco family fought the decision with a petition, citing a decree passed in 2010, which states that all military officials, authorities and determined personalities (the King of Spain included) are entitled to military honors at their funeral.

No specific attention from government officials has been given to the demands of the family.

El Mundo published a meticulously detailed story including the 21 cannon shots that would be fired and the seven repetitions of “Viva España!” at the funeral.

The tone of the article was set in the lead with the words of Jorge Fernández Díaz, a representative of Spain’s Popular Party, when he called the exhumation decision an “arbitrary action.”

Though El País’ coverage emphasizes Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s promise to exhume Franco’s body with “dignity and respect,” there is no mention of the specifics of the family’s wishes.

The article also highlights that a funeral with full military honors would “contradict the aim of the exhumation, which is to strip the dictator of his privileged position at the Valley of the Fallen monument.”

The end of the article acknowledges the government’s fear that the new burial site would turn into a shrine for Franco followers.

Spain’s biggest papers have published polarized viewpoints on the issue of Franco’s final resting place in the past. When Spanish Congress voted to exhume Franco’s body in September, El Mundo published a headline reading, “The Congress Green-Lighted Franco’s Exhumation Though All the Groups Find the Decree Unsatisfactory.”

In contrast, El País simply published, “Spanish Congress Approves Exhumation of Franco’s Remains.”

The disparities in coverage of the ongoing story is crucial to understanding the divide in Spanish historical memory and how that memory impacts present-day politics.


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