By Catherine MacDonald
MADRID (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters gathered outside the Almudena Roman Catholic Cathedral in central Madrid on Thursday to demonstrate against any plans to bury the remains of former dictator Francisco Franco at the site.
Families of the tens of thousands of his opponents who were killed or imprisoned during his near four-decade rule oppose his burial at such an emblematic site.
Spanish lawmakers voted in September to remove the remains of Franco from a mausoleum where tens of thousands of victims of the 1936-39 civil war that brought him to power are also laid to rest.
It is still not known where his remains will be transferred to. But the Franco family has a crypt at the cathedral and Franco’s daughter is buried there.
People chanted ‘Criminal out of the cathedral’ and carried placards reading ‘Madrid: Without Franco’ and ‘Justice!’
“I would chuck him in a ditch,” said 74-year-old protestor Gorgonio Ferrero outside the cathedral. “But not (buried) here.”
The plans to move Franco’s remains have divided Spanish society. Several of his descendants have expressed opposition to the exhumation.
The Francisco Franco Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes the memory of the former dictator, has said that his remains should be given a Christian burial at the Madrid cathedral.
The government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez hopes the exhumation will help settle grievances from the period of his rule that still cast a shadow over the country. As many as 500,000 combatants and civilians died in the Spanish civil war.
(Writing By Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)