Spain To Exhume Dictator Franco's Remains

General Francisco Franco died in 1975.

Spain's centre-left government has approved legal amendments ensuring that the remains of former dictator General Francisco Franco will be dug up and removed from a controversial national mausoleum honouring its civil war dead.

The minority Socialist government is certain that parliament will endorse the amendments, probably in a debate next month, deputy prime minister Carmen Calvo told a news conference.

The amendments to Spain's Historical Memory Law of 2007 grant the government power to exhume Franco's body. That change aims to thwart legal efforts by Franco's descendants and supporters to block the exhumation in the courts.

Removing Franco's remains from the Valley of the Fallen, a mausoleum he ordered built 50 kilometres northwest of Madrid, would be a momentous event in Spain which still bears social and political scars from the 1936-39 civil war.

The vast Valley of the Fallen complex is most conspicuous public legacy of Franco's rule. It was built by Franco as a tribute to those killed in the 1936-39 civil war when he deposed Spain's democratic government in what he called his "glorious crusade".

Some 34,000 people from both sides of the fighting are buried at the site, most of them never identified.

Franco's descendants will be consulted and will have 15 days to say where they would like the remains to be placed after exhumation. If they do not reply, the government will choose a "dignified place".

Francisco Martinez-Bordiu, a grandson of Franco, described the exhumation plans as "barbaric", telling Antena 3 in an interview on Friday that descendants would assess their legal options for halting it.

An exhumation of Franco's embalmed body - possibly as early as October - would cement the government's reformist and liberal credentials after taking power last June.

Removing Franco from the mausoleum, which is owned and operated by the cultural heritage agency, a public-funded body, has long been discussed in Spain.

Franco, who died in 1975, is in a tomb in the basilica's central nave beneath a 1.5-metric ton tombstone.