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Exhumation of former Spanish dictator is act of reconciliation says acting PM

Relatives of late Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, carry the coffin after the exhumation at The Valle de los Caidos (The Valley of the Fallen) in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain, October 24, 2019. J.J. Guillen/Pool via REUTERS

MADRID (Reuters) - The exhumation of Spain’s former dictator Francisco Franco was a step towards reconciliation, acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Thursday, after the general’s remains were removed from the state mausoleum where he was buried in 1975.

“Modern Spain is the product of forgiveness, but it can’t be the product of forgetfulness,” he said in a televised address.

Around 500,000 people were killed in the 1936-1939 Civil War between Franco’s nationalist rebels and left-wing Republicans. Many more were killed in the ensuing four decades of dictatorship resulting from Franco’s victory.

The antagonism between the two sides remained during the transition to democracy in the 1970s, resulting in deep divisions between right and left.

“A public tribute to a dictator was more than an anachronism it was an affront to our democracy,” Sanchez said. “Ending it was an obligation for the generations that did not grow up with the trauma of the Civil War and dictatorship.”

Reporting By Emma Pinedo, Writing by Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Ashifa Kassam