Spain is taking a major step toward dealing with its fascist past by exhuming the body of former dictator Francisco Franco, the Guardian reports. Buried at a monument for the nation's civil-war dead near Madrid, Franco remains a magnet for fascist sympathizers who spread flowers on his grave—but many see him as an insult to the roughly 200,000 Spaniards who died opposing his regime. Now the Socialist party led by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is having the fascist leader exhumed against the wishes of Franco's family. "The government has taken this opportunistic, cowardly and vengeful decision," says Franco's grandson, Francisco Franco Martínez Bordiú. "This is just a trick to win votes for the left."
Clearly, there's a history here—a history of unhealed wounds. To ease Spain's transition to democracy when Franco died in 1975, the country agreed on a "pact of silence" that left civil-war crimes unpunished. But that meant some Spaniards lived alongside neighbors they knew had killed their family members or taken their property. Under the last Socialist government, symbols of Franco's era were removed and streets renamed, but a plan to have his body taken from the Valley of the Fallen Mausoleum went unheeded when the People's Party took over in 2011, per Bloomberg. Now the exhumation will take place, reburial location unknown. "It's about time they did this," says a 37-year-old woman in Madrid. "It can remain as a monument but it shouldn’t be a place of pilgrimage for fascists." (Read more Spain stories.)