Monday, June 12, 2023

Crimes of Francoism, a history of bloody impunity

By Álvaro Luque.

We have all heard stories of Francoism that continue to shrink our hearts. You left the house, they arrested you and little by little, humiliation by humiliation, they stripped you of all human dignity where you became a simple punching bag. You became a rag doll where the Brigada Político-Social in the 70s, and the Civil Guard and the Army in the post-war period, were practicing all kinds of humiliations and tortures to extract any confession. 

Beatings of women who begged not to have their stomachs beaten anymore. Throwing you down the stairs or out of the window and then saying you were killing yourself. Simulating suffocation with a bag, hanging from your arms until you faint from the pain, beating your ears with wet towels, or threatening to kill your family. The typical of a dictatorship that clung like a tick to Spanish society for several decades.

With the Transition*, many of the thousands tortured thought that justice would be done for all crimes. But the gutters were still full and the dominant memory remained an exercise in humiliation for the vanquished. We had to turn the page because telling the truth was opening wounds. The silence seemed to become eternal.

Many victims and relatives decided to shout out against this imposed silence. They organized and began to create associations to claim that memory was still Francoist and that a supposed democracy could not continue humiliating the victims and continue to be the heir of the executioners. The government had to give in to pressure and in 2007 published a "law of historical memory" that was a new "wet paper" like so many other laws. The desire for truth and justice continued to grow. Many families plucked up the courage to recover the truth. They gave us images of courage that are difficult to describe, digging dignity in the gutters, flooding with courage the silence of the Sevillian night before the miserable applause of the family of Queipo de Llano. They kept teaching us that remembering was not an option, but building a future.

On October 19, 2022, these families saw a new "Law of Democratic Memory" published. Beyond the legal analysis and the novelties and improvements that it introduces, which there are, the law speaks of truth, justice and reparation but does not lay the foundations to do anything of these three statements so necessary, it speaks of truth but does not allow investigation, justice is named more than 30 times but does not allow to judge and boasts of reparation but does not allow compensation to the victims.

It is up tp me to carry out a legal analysis, since I am not a lawyer, but many organizations, little suspected of being communists, denounce that the new law still does not advance in the key elements. And it is that 40 years after the end of Francoism no PSOE government dares to judge the crimes of the dictatorship. The Amnesty Law approved in 1977 and denounced by numerous international organizations together with the UN itself for non-compliance with international law and for being a buffer for crimes against humanity to be tried, remains an insurmountable wall. Not repealing that law and PSOE's manifested lack of willingness to do justice tarnish any progress no matter how much law is approved. They say one thing and then deny it by means of facts.

In May, the PSOE and the PP voted against a proposal by different social democratic formations coordinated by the State Coordinator of Support for the Argentine Complaint against the Crimes of Francoism (CEAQUA) to reform the Penal Code and allow the crimes of Francoism not to be imprescriptible. Because no matter how much "law of democratic memory" is approved, thanks to the Amnesty Law, judges continue to reject lawsuits to judge Francoist crimes.

These acts of the PSOE continue to perpetuate Franco's impunity, which has lasted longer than the dictatorship itself, and fewer and fewer victims will be able to know. We are on the way to the centenary of the war and there are still those who deny truth, justice and reparation to the victims.

* (IDC Note): Known as “La Transición”, the intermediate period between Francoist dictatorship to the consolidation of a parliamentary system, appr. 1975-1982.