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Franco's 'stolen' country mansion at centre of court battle with State
By thinkSPAIN Team Fri, Jul 12, 2019
A JUDGE will decide on whether or not a vast country estate in the province of A Coruña (Galicia) rightfully belongs to the public, or to the descendants of dictator General Franco.
Spain's government maintains Franco's 'purchase' of the Pazo de Meirás (pictured) in 1941 was 'simulated' and 'fraudulent'.
Notary documents from three years earlier showed it had been 'bought' for 406,346 pesetas from the heirs of author Emilia Pardo Bazán by what would now be referred to as the regional government of Galicia, but that a second, fictitious purchase contract had been signed by Franco for 85,000 pesetas in 1941, allowing the dictator to file the estate in his own name on the property register.
As a result, the local council and the provincial government, or Diputación of A Coruña have urged the Spanish State to fight for its return to public hands and have decided to add their names as plaintiffs in the case.
The official line, still upheld by Franco's descendants, was that the estate in the town of Sada, with its faux-Mediaeval mansion, had been donated to the dictator during the Civil War out of the region of Galicia's 'loyalty' to him and in recognition of his being a 'local man', having been born in the far-northern port town of Ferrol (A Coruña province).
But subsequent investigation by historians has shown that the people of the province, however impoverished, were forced to hand over big chunks of their hard-won earnings to Franco to allow him to buy what was his summer residence from 1938, and even to furnish it for him.
Franco then used the Meirás estate as a rural pied à terre until his death, but almost immediately since he moved in, residents of Galicia who had been faced with 'donating' their savings or being imprisoned began to clamour for its return.
Their descendants have long been fighting for the complex to become public property, so it can be opened as a tourist attraction and anyone who wants to can visit and enjoy it.
So far, the government has only managed to make it a legal obligation for Franco's family to open it as a national heritage site to visitors on certain days of the year, but it is still considered, by law, to belong to the dictator's relatives.
In 2017, when the family refused to open it on two of the days they were required to, peaceful protesters went up on the roof and draped banners from the outside walls.
They did not cause damage, noise or disorder, and when the Guardia Civil ordered them and their banners off the premises two hours later, the group left without argument.
One of the activists later said the interior was 'shocking' to behold – as well as a huge bust of Franco, the entire décor was 'clearly a shrine to the dictator'.
A year ago, the group was facing criminal action brought by the Franco family in a private prosecution, who called for 13 years in jail for 'trespass' and even 'hate crimes' – news the protesters received in disbelief, that the relatives of a fascist dictator could be charging peaceful activists with an 'offence' of this nature.
No further reports have been published as yet concerning the case.
But this week, it was announced that the State Law Service had applied to the provincial court in A Coruña to sue the Francisco Franco Foundation for the estate.
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