Spain’s main ruling socialist party (PSOE) demanded explanations on Monday from Pablo Casado, the leader of the right-wing People’s Party (PP), the main opposition group, after he attended a mass for the late dictator Francisco Franco, whose legacy still divides Spain.
‘We consider this an aggression, an absolute irresponsibility,’ PSOE spokesman Héctor Gomez told reporters.
‘We demand an explanation … whether the leader of the opposition, the leader of the People’s Party is endorsing Francisco Franco’s dictatorship,’ he said.
Casado’s PP group said that he had been ‘unaware’ that the mass being held in Granada, Andalusia, and which he attended on Saturday with his family, was one of several services held across Spain to commemorate the 46th anniversary of Franco’s death.
According to reports, Casado simply walked into a church next to his hotel because he knew he would not be able to go to a mass the following day due to his tight schedule.
The Francisco Franco Foundation thanked him for his presence there but said he had not been invited and could not be held responsible.
Pablo Echenique of the left-wing Podemos group and the junior party in the Spanish coalition government, said he doubted the incident was a coincidence.
‘Yes it can be bad luck, but on 20 November there were 10 masses for Franco in all of Spain and there are 23,000 churches … the chance of attending one for Franco is 0.05%,’ he said.
Spain’s El Diario has reported, with images showing Francoist flags in the pews inside the church during the mass held in Granada, that the Franco Foundation had announced details of the service five days before it was held.
Así fue la misa en recuerdo de Franco a la que Pablo Casado acudió "por error": https://t.co/xBXCYwrRwM accede a las imágenes del interior de la catedralhttps://t.co/Borjlkpm5T pic.twitter.com/Jy2cjAFLfw— elDiario.es (@eldiarioes) November 22, 2021
More than half a million people died during the 1936-39 Civil War and an estimated 150,000 were killed later in repression by Franco’s government, historians estimate.
Last week, the ruling coalition government took steps to amend the draft Democratic Memory Law, in a move that could mean crimes committed during the Franco era being prosecuted, having previously been protected until now. Also read: Government amends draft law to allow Franco-era crimes to be prosecuted.