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Spain: Judge strips late dictator’s heirs of summer retreat

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 2, 2020

Associated Press

MADRID — A Spanish court on Wednesday ordered the heirs of Gen. Francisco Franco to hand over to the state a 19th-century palace used by the late dictator as a summer retreat.

The Spanish government had filed a lawsuit against the dictator’s descendants arguing that the Pazo de Meirás palace in the northwestern Galicia region was illegally acquired by the former dictator during the country’s 1936-1939 Civil War.

On Wednesday, in the first ruling on the case, Judge Marta Canales said that the estate was not transferred to Franco in 1938 as an individual but in his capacity as head of state. A subsequent attempt in 1941 to legalize the sale was “null,” the judge said.

The Franco descendants’ lawyer, Luis Felipe Utrera, told The Associated Press that the family will appeal the ruling.

Last year, the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez won another judicial battle against Franco’s heirs that resulted in the exhumation and relocation of the dictator’s remains from the Valley of the Fallen, a grandiose mausoleum outside Madrid, to a family chapel in a small public cemetery.

As part of Sánchez’s Socialists’ campaign to address the dictator’s legacy, the government last year sued his descendants with new documents that it said proved how Franco tithed local workers to help fund the purchase of the palace from a private owner.

In her ruling, the judge wrote that Franco “had paid nothing” for the property and, hence, that the dictator had “bought nothing.”

Government spokeswoman María Jesús Montero welcomed the ruling.

“The government is taking very seriously the democratic memory and the recovery of all the heritage that was robbed from the Spanish people in a fraudulent manner,” Montero said.

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