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Law Giving Redress to Franco Regime Victims Divides Spain

MADRID – From the outside, it seems like any other block of flats in Madrid.

Inside, however, is th..

MADRID – From the outside, it seems like any other block of flats in Madrid.

Inside, however, is the Fundación National Francisco Franco, or Francisco Franco National Foundation, an institution that preserves the memory of the man who ruled Spain for nearly four decades until his death in 1975.

To some, it is a shrine to a fascist dictator, which should not exist in democratic Spain in the 21st century.

To others, it guards the flame of a man who spared the country from communism, presided over its reconstruction after its devastating civil war, and saved it from being drawn into the Second World War.

Almost every centimeter of the walls are filled with paintings or photographs of Franco while the offices contain important papers of state signed by El Caudillo (The Leader) which are consulted by historians.

The foundation is now under threat after the Socialist government passed a law on Tuesday which will ban the organization for “glorifying the dictatorship.”

Lessons about the repression of political opponents under Franco will become part of the national school curriculum.

Unhealed wounds

However, the bill is hugely divisive in a country which is still struggling to deal with this part of its past.

Unlike Germany or Portugal, Spain is the only European country which has never addressed events of its wartime past, and of the long dictatorship that followed.

An amnesty law passed in 1977 prohibited retrospective trials relating to events during the Franco years.

More than half a million people died during Spains 1936-1939 civil war that pitted leftist Republicans supported by the Soviet Union against rightist Nationalist forces led by Franco backed by Nazi Germany. An estimated 120,000 people were killed during General Franco’s time in power while 450,000 were forced into exile, historians estimate.

After Burundi and Cambodia, Spain has the highest number of mass graves in the world, according to the United Nations.

Leftist political parties believe Spain must deal with this aspect of its past in order for future generations to come to terms with events under Francos rule.

However, conservatives see the legislation as only reviving the wounds of a conflict which happened eight decades ago.

Pedro Sánchez, the Spanish prime minister, tweeted: “Today we take another step in recognizing the victims of the civil war and the dictatorship with the Democratic Memory Law. Today we close the wounds a little more; we can look at the past with greater dignity.”

Enrique Santiago, a member of parliament for the far-left Unidas Podemos alliance, the junior partner in the coalition government, said the legislation was an improvement on a law passed in 2007 which offered reparations for victims of Franco but it stalled after a conservative government came to power in 2011 and froze funding.

Santiago said the new legislation provided state funds to search for missing victims, recognized those pressed into forced labor for the dictatorship, and will impose fines of up to $178,000 for glorifying Franco.

“This bill does not go as far as Germany which prohibited Nazism. Unfortunately, there are sectors which still revere the dictator,” he told VOA.

“We hope this (law) doesn’t produce a division. We hope that this establishes the international rights which should not bother anyone,” Santiago said.

Spain divided

The sensitivity of the issue, however, was demonstrated by the swift response from the political right.

The Peoples Party, the largest opposition party, said the leftist government used Franco as an excuse not to address other problems.

“Whenever Sánchez has a problem, he gets Franco out of the Valley of the Fallen,” said Javier Maroto, a party spokesman.

General Juan Chicharro Ortega, president of the Franco foundation, said the organization would challenge the law in the courts.

“This law is anti-democratic. It contravenes the Spanish constitution which guarantees the liberty of expression. It says you can only think one way and negates what half of Spaniards are thinking,” he told VOA.

Santiago Abascal, leader of the far-right Vox party, the third largest in the Spanish parliament with 52 MPs, called the law “totalitarian.”

Ciudadanos, or Citizens, a small center-right party, believes the government should address a health crisis which has seen the number of COVID-19 cases rise to over 600,000, the highest number if western Europe.

“Of course we condemn the dictatorship but I think most Spaniards right now think the government should concentrate on trying to solve the problems of the pandemic, ” Melisa Rodriguez, a Ciudadanos parliamentary spokesman, told VOA.

For the relatives of Franco’s victims, the new law will bring solace.

When archaeologists were searching a mass grave last weekend, they chanced upon Eugenio Ursúa’s wedding ring, ending his daughter’s 84-year hunt for the father she never knew.

“It was a lovely moment. I wanted to cry. We knew my father was buried here and it was a long wait to find him and now we have,” Rosa María told VOA.

Ursúa, a 29-year-old father of two, was killed just days after the start of the civil war in 1936.

He answered a call to defend the Republican government after Franco led an armed uprising but his unit was ambushed in El Espinar, 62 kilometers north of Madrid.

Pending a DNA test, his remains will be buried next to those of his late wife.

Rosa María, who was six months old when her father died, said,“For us the search is over. This law might give other families some help to find their relatives.”

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Coronavirus pandemic: 156 nations join WHO-led global plan for vaccine, US and China absent

Issued on: 22/09/2020 – 11:11Modified: 22/09/2020 – 11:18

A total of 156 countries have joined the..

Issued on: 22/09/2020 – 11:11Modified: 22/09/2020 – 11:18

A total of 156 countries have joined the global COVAX scheme intended to ensure fair distribution of supplies of future #vaccines against #Covid-19, an alliance led by the World Health Organization said on Monday. #WRead More – Source

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More than 60 wealthy countries join WHO’s plan for distributing Covid-19 vaccine

Issued on: 22/09/2020 – 07:44

More than 60 wealthy nations have joined a WHO-backed programme to f..

Issued on: 22/09/2020 – 07:44

More than 60 wealthy nations have joined a WHO-backed programme to facilitate poor countries' access to coronavirus vaccines, but the US and China are not on the list published Monday.

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The World Health Organization has in coordination with the global vaccine alliance group Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) created a mechanism aimed at ensuring a more equitable distribution of any future Covid-19 vaccines.

But the mechanism, known as Covax, has struggled to raise the funds needed to provide for the 92 low-income countries and other economies that quickly signed up.

WHO had encouraged richer nations to step up to the plate by the end of last week and when the deadline fell, 64 were onboard with another 38 expected to join in "coming days", the three organisations said in a joint statement.

Among those who have signed up are "the European Commission … on behalf of 27 EU member states plus Norway and Iceland," it said.

The United States, which under President Donald Trump has relentlessly criticised the WHO's handling of the pandemic and which is in the process of withdrawing from the organisation, is not on the list.

And China, where the novel coronavirus first surfaced late last year, is also absent.

"The purpose of the Covax facility is to try to work with every country in the world," Gavi chief Seth Berkley told a virtual briefing when asked about China's absence from the list.

"I can assure you that we have had conversations and will continue to have conversations with all countries," he said.

'Not charity'

In addition to working to get more countries to join Covax, Berkley said there was also an ongoing dialogue with vaccine-producing countries about "if they have successful vaccines that come out, how we can make sure they are made available to others in the world."

The aim is for Covax to lay its hands on two billion doses of safe and effective vaccines by the end of 2021.

But the mechanism is facing a range of significant challenges, not least a serious funding shortfall.

The WHO has said some $38 billion is needed for its overall ACT-Accelerator programme, which includes Covax, but also global collaboration towards developing and ensuring equitable access to tests and treatments for Covid-19, and strengthening health systems.

But so far it has received just $3.0 billion of that.

The 64 members of the Facility will be joined by 92 low- and middle-income economies eligible for support for the procurement of vaccines through the Read More – Source

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Madrid opera canceled after audience revolts over social distancing concerns

An opera in Madrid was halted on Sunday night after audience members protested over concerns that se..

An opera in Madrid was halted on Sunday night after audience members protested over concerns that seating was too crowded in the venue.The Teatro Real in Spain's capital city was forced to cancel the performance of Giuseppe Verdi's "Un ballo in maschera" after a group of spectators staged a protest during the performance, eventually ending the show and closing the venue for the night.Police officers were called to the site on Sunday.The venue said Monday that it "greatly regrets what happened" but attributed the upset to shifts in the city's health regulations.In July, the theater hosted performances of another Verdi opera, "La Traviata," and spaced out audience members by sealing off some chairs and placing empty chairs between each pair of occupied seats, it said.But it relaxed its seating policy after the city eased coronavirus restrictions, allowing some venues to host bigger audiences. On Sunday, the Teatro Real was at 65% capacity, still below city guidelines that allow such venues to fill up to 75% of normal capacity, it said. Audience members were allowed to freely choose their seats, though they wore masks during the performance.The Teatro Real on Monday acknowledged in a statement that some spectators had felt unsafe in their seats, "even if the current health regulations were scrupulously complied with, verified by the police who traveled to the [Teatro Real] last night." The statement added: "The Teatro Real wants to reiterate its commitment to the health safety of the public, artists and workers, in which it has been working with dedication, responsibility and great energy, since April, with its own Medical Committee and scrupulous monitoRead More – Source



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