Madrid – A blue-ribbon commission created by Spain's Socialist government on Tuesday recommended that the body of dictator Francisco Franco be removed from the Valley of the Fallen to make the site a true memorial to victims of the 1936-1939 civil war.
The commission feels that Franco's remains should be exhumed and "transferred to the site his family designates or, in his case, to one that is considered worthy and more suitable."
The group of experts justified the need to transfer Franco's remains because he is the only one of the more than 33,000 people interred in the Valley of the Fallen who did not die in the civil war and also because the site should be converted into a memorial exclusively for the fallen on both sides of that conflict.
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero - the grandson of a Republican officer killed in the civil war - decided in May to commission 12 notables from academia to produce a study about the future of the architectural monument located 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Madrid and crowned by a gigantic cross.
The commission is recommending "giving new meaning" to the entire monument complex to commemorate and pay respect to the 33,847 Francoist and Republican fighters interred there.
A basilica at the site holds the bodies of Franco and Falange party founder Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, who perished in the civil war.
The experts believe that the remains of Primo de Rivera may remain at the Valley of the Fallen, but they should be moved outside the basilica alongside those of the other war dead.
The commission said that exhuming Franco's body would require the authorization of the Catholic Church, since the basilica is a religious site.
Regarding the recommendations that they made, the experts emphasized that "they would not be feasible without (broad) parliamentary agreements," acknowledging that this is a delicate matter that could hurt the feelings of some people.
Routed in the Nov. 20 general elections, the Socialist government will be replaced soon by an administration of the conservative Popular Party, which also won effective control of Parliament.
The experts say that "up to now" the Valley of the Fallen has represented only "the memory of a part" of the conflict, despite the fact that the dead that rest there are from both Republican and Falangist ranks.
"We need to give new meaning to that monument so that it may be a place for the memory of the dead in the Civil War," said former university chancellor Virgilio Zapatero upon presenting the report's conclusions.
To do that, the commission proposed that "a powerful artistic ... memorial be constructed that recalls all those who fell in the war" on the esplanade before the basilica.
Also, an interpretation center explaining how and why the enormous mausoleum was built should be constructed on the site, the commission said.
The Valley of the Fallen is currently a pilgrimage site for those who are nostalgic for Francoism and come there every Nov. 20 to commemorate the anniversary of the dictator's death in 1975.