Publication: Thursday, November 26, 2020 09:51
Making democratic memory a matter of state has become one of the highest priorities of the coalition government. “A democratic country must do it.” This is how it is envisioned and defended by Fernando Martínez (1949), historian, senator and, since January 2020, Secretary of State for Democratic Memory, an organization that seeks to comply with the main principles of humanitarian law: “Truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition”; in this case, in reference to the civil war and the dictatorial regime led by Franco until 1975. Is it possible to reconcile Spain with its past?
Faced with an increasingly polarized political and social debate around this issue, Martínez continues to believe in the need to bet on measures that promote the memory of Spain of the last century. Is this law on democratic memory late? Martínez reminds Zapatero: “Since 2007 we have a very important law for the development of public policies of memory. But throughout these 13 years we have seen the gaps that this could have, and a series of events have occurred in memory policies, both nationally and internationally, which advised to make a new law on memory “.
The secretary of state refers to reports from international humanitarian organizations, such as the one published by UN rapporteur Pablo de Greiff in 2014 – which the Valley of the Fallen website describes as “a member of the New World Order,” ” impartial ”and calls for“ fewer jokes ”- or the one exposed by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (OHCHR). Also, the emergence of regional laws taking into account “reflections on the 2007 law” and “demands of the memorial movement”. In short, a set of elements which “have promoted a new law which corrects the deficits of the previous one in order to meet the objectives of 2007, but which also implements many more things”.
But how does this law change compared to 2007? Martínez and the government are focusing on a “fundamental measure that the state must take”: the location, search, exhumation and identification of victims in mass graves, which will have 60% of the budget acquired. “Many graves have been lost since the civil war,” laments the politician, who explains how they will proceed at this stage: “We have put in place a shock plan that has two pillars: one of the grants that have already gone to non-profit associations. profit, universities or projects. And a second pillar: 750,000 euros intended strictly for exhumations via the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP) “.
“At the same time,” Martínez continues, “we have prepared a four-year plan for exhumations with the autonomous communities, with whom we have already had a national conference”. And he warns that there will be priority exhumations: “Those who are in open places and who risk disappearing, such as those bordering rivers or streams; those who already have all the administrative procedures, as the case of the ‘Andalusia; the large graves, such as those of Pico Reja, Córdoba, Huelva or Víznar, where there are thousands of shots; and those in cemeteries. ”Since 2000, more than 9,000 bodies have been exhumed, and the objective is to “exhume around 20,000 bodies”.
Law enforcement issues
Fernando Martínez assumes that the framework for collaboration with other administrations “is total” to carry out this measure and others, such as the creation of a national census of victims of the civil war and the dictatorship or the extension of the map of the graves. But is its implementation possible when there are organizations which, for ideological reasons, have not fully applied the earlier law of historical memory?
The Secretary of State is frank: “Through seven articles, the elements contrary to the democratic memory are clearly established, and the laws must be respected from the first to the last geographical point of the Spanish State”. He thus confirms that they have “guarantees of conformity, like any precept of law”, and gives an example: “If a town has the toponymy of a putschist and still wonders whether it is suppressed or not, because it there is an ambiguous situation, the law is sufficiently clear. It is deleted. The city council must abolish it because the law requires it. “
The same goes for the elimination of Francoist traces, which goes further: “The 2007 law had only one article dedicated to this. With these seven articles, it is perfectly outlined what needs to be taken out and what is not. This adds something that the old law did not have, which is a penalty regime for those who do not comply with the precepts established by this law. “This regime provides for three types of sanctions:” Very serious, like damaging a mass grave; serious, like intervening on a grave without authorization; and light, like destroying a plaque in a place of memory “.
The apologies of the Franco regime have no general interest, they are likely to trigger the process of extinction
In this way, underlines the Secretary of State, “it is perfectly guaranteed that there cannot be symbols which exalt the coup or the dictatorship. The law deeply corrects this ”. In this sense, the new historical norm does not forget Francoist and fascist claims and seems to include a clear message addressed to the Francisco Franco Foundation. “All foundations must respond to interests of a general nature, and excuses for Francoism are not.” According to Martínez, this discourse, associated with “direct or indirect incitement to hatred against victims or relatives, is a cause to trigger the process of extinction”.
A census of victims and other measures
Another of the most important measures included in the new law on democratic memory is the creation of a national census of victims of civil war and dictatorship, another issue of great “importance” and “necessary” for the government. The reason: in Spain “we do not have an official census”, as do other European countries, and “all figures given are estimates”.
How does the government propose to achieve it? Martínez replies: “We will carry out a complete census, but without coming into conflict with data protection. A census of missing or deceased persons who have passed through courts of political responsibility, by councils of war, by the Special Tribunal for the repression of Freemasonry and Communism, of people who were in the guerrillas, who suffered torture “.
The law, or at least its application, faces the great problem of the scarcity – if not practically nonexistent – of documentation concerning the number of people executed or missing during the years of war and rule. How then will we proceed to publish a complete census? Martínez assures that they are not just looking for files: “We will work with all the sources we have. We will put what we know reliably to be true.” And while acknowledging that “there will be other things that will be waiting for more precise documentation”, he emphasizes that “the censuses are alive, we do not do it and that’s it. Things are in progress. integration course and can even be rectified if something is wrong in a certain time ”.
To this measure is added another of equal importance: the creation of a National DNA Bank exclusively for the victims of the Franco regime which will be managed by the National Institute of Toxicology and which has, according to Martínez, with “a budget item for the acquisition of a specific software “which allows its commissioning:” We contacted many laboratories, with people who work in genetic identification and with the team of the National Institute of Toxicology for its development.
The role of the Valley of the Fallen in the reparation and dignity of the victims of the Franco regime after the exhumation of Franco’s remains also acquires particular importance for this law: “The existing history of the Valley of the Fallen is a history Francoist, and the valley must be redefined, which is nothing more than explaining how it is built and who builds it. ”To do this, the State Secretariat for Democratic Memory is working on a web page which explains the significance of a monument which, in Martínez’s words, is “the result of the symbiosis between religion and politics, national Catholicism.” And he adds: “The idea is to transform Franco’s history into a democratic history explaining everything with historical milestones, documentaries, speeches … everything that has been the trajectory with educational resources “.
Democratic memory, a construction of sensibilities
Martínez emphasizes other key aspects included in the law. To underline, the “transversal presence” that the women have throughout this one, an aspect which was not included in that of 2007: “The role which they played in the conquest of the rights and freedoms in Spain is recognized, as also in the specific repression they suffered because they were women. “He also does not forget the” very important “work of the memorialist movement:” All this marks how we link the politics of Spanish memory with the politics of transnational memory. “
Specifically, what is known so far about this new historical norm has not completely convinced the commemorative movement, which considers some of the fundamental questions dictated therein as not very ambitious. Does Martínez think that the sensitivities of this group have been gathered? “I believe that practically all are included”, he affirms, and he specifies: “They proposed the direction of the State, the annulment of the sentences, the creation of a parquet floor of the Room of the democratic memory. and human rights or the condemnation of the Franco regime, which had not yet appeared in the positive part of the law (it appears in the explanatory memorandum of 2007) ”.
“If you take the manifesto that the commemorative movements have always done, 100% of things are collected,” he continues, admitting however “that there can be nuances, how to do things one way or the other. other”. For this, remember, the law is in the period of public hearing and information that will allow a new reading based on the proposals presented: “It ends on December 3 with the aim that, as soon as possible, once that you receive the Mandatory Reports, go through the second round of the Council of Ministers and we will place it in the parliamentary debate. Hopefully it will be in January or, at the latest, in February, it may already be in the courts . “The goal in any case is to find the memory of a country whose memory is in danger of being forgotten.