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Spain - Franco's Ghost -

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(generated from captions) Hello, I'm Chris Clark in Spain. In the 20th century, this country was dominated by civil war and dictatorship. Hundreds of thousands died in the conflict and repression that followed.

There were atrocities on both sides - by republicans and by the ultimately victorious, nationalist forces of General Franco. Now, the Spanish government thinks it's time to pay proper respect to republican victims of the war and the repression. But that means delving back into a period in Spanish history which many people today would rather not revisit.

In the southern Spanish city of Malaga, local archeology students are brushing away 70 years of dirt, revealing a time when Spain was at war with itself.

A war where, seven decades on, the number killed is still disputed. Some say 250,000, others contend as many as 1 million died. And only now is this mass grave from the war being exhumed. They're digging away at history. But uncovering the past is painful

and some fear it'll divide Spain again.

(Sobs) In 1936, General Francisco Franco led a military uprising

against Spain's elected, left-wing government. He embraced Fascism. Here he is meeting Hitler. German planes bombed Spanish cities to help him. Franco's victory in the civil war ushered in a period of dictatorship and repression,

which ended only with his death in 1975. Franco was a historic mistake of Spain's. Spain could have made it to the 20th century much earlier. Spain didn't make it to the 20th century - as far as I'm concerned - until, economically, probably until the mid 60s - politically, definitely until 1978 with our constitution.

Just a few years after Franco's death, Spain became a democracy.

It's been a rapid transition. So, on a quiet Sunday morning in the backstreets of Malaga, it's difficult to conjure a vision of Spain at war. Between 1936 and 1939, here and across the country,

it was neighbour against neighbour. No-one disputes that there were atrocities on both sides in the Spanish Civil War, though people will argue about the numbers. In the early months of the conflict, when Republicans were in control here, by one estimate, around 1,000 nationalist sympathisers

were executed. So, when the Nationalists won Malaga in 1937, reprisals quickly followed.

In Malaga, many accused of Republican sympathies were brought here to the San Raphael cemetery, then lined up against this wall and shot. Among them, Francisco Espinosa's Republican father. In all, about 3,600 were killed here and dumped in a mass grave. Not all at once - the process took months. It was systematic and calculated. As Francisco Espinosa explains,

Republicans on the left of politics had earlier shot nationalists from the right on this same spot.

So, in part, this is about honouring the dead from the losing side -

long after the winners have had their day. But it's also political

because Spain's governing Socialist Party wants to help people not only identify the remains of relatives but offer compensation to victims of Franco's repression.

This is Valle de los Caidos - the Valley of the Fallen. Franco ordered it built as a national monument to the war dead. In the end, he was buried here too, and that's one of its problems. His remains lie beneath the floor of the basilica, and Francoists - old and new - come here every year on the anniversary of his death

to remember him. There are flowers, they give their little fascist salutes

and, all of this - the annual presence of a few thousand political fringe dwellers and simple nostalgics - has given the place a very bad name. Unfortunately, we can't take the camera inside to show you the religious service that's about to start. It has been possible in the past but it's not possible this year. Perhaps it's all just a bit too sensitive. In any event, you get the flavour of the place and, perhaps, an understanding why some on the left of Spanish politics, struggle with the idea that this really is a monument

to all the dead of the civil war. This is all that's left these days of the Falange, the Fascist political party that supported Franco. The Valley of the Fallen is where they come to pay homage to the dictator. And one thing the government hopes to do with its new law is to somehow turn this place into a truly representative war memorial.

Juan Antonio Barrio de Panagos is a government MP.

The government's opponents say that with its flag-waving neo-Fascists and Francoist diehards, the Valley of the Fallen means nothing to most Spaniards,

whatever their history or current politics. So, why make it an issue?

You have never seen a single member of a democratic Spanish political party go to the Valley of the Fallen since Franco died. Never in these 30 years of Spanish democracy has a single, serious Spanish politician been seen in the Valley of the Fallen. Indeed, what's striking is how few obvious, physical reminders of Franco remain.

In a small apartment in Madrid, there is the Francisco Franco Foundation - not a shrine as such - a research facility, according to its president, Felix Morales, who also tells me the Valley of the Fallen isn't a memorial to Franco.

But, then, adds that it makes sense

as the dictator's final resting place. It's certainly a fair bet that Franco would struggle to reconcile today's Spain with the one he left in 1975. So, why 30 years after Franco's death are people only now dealing with this issue? The reasons are political. When the dictatorship ended, both left and right in Spanish politics agreed

that building a democracy was more important than settling old scores. I think that one of the most important things that Spain ever made was its transition,

and we've got to honour that transition because it's not just the king, and certain politicians that were the architects of that transition, it's actually the whole Spanish people.

For Francisco Espinosa, it's about honouring a father he never knew. And it's a painstaking process - each set of remains from the mass grave in Malaga goes into a numbered box and DNA tests will try to match them to the living. It's also about more than honouring a memory. Francisco Espinosa wants the records changed so that people executed without a proper trial

will have their convictions quashed.

But righting past wrongs is easier said than done - there are records of those shot and dumped here but, in many other cases, there aren't,

regardless of which side they were on. In a Malaga restaurant, I met men who all had relatives killed by Republicans. Angel Rosso Garcia didn't know his father.

His father was killed in the early months of the war.

Jose Sanchez Rosso was only four months' old when Republicans killed 42 people in his village, including a cousin and an uncle.

These men don't want to revisit this period.

For the past 20 years, Francisco Espinosa has been combing the local archive. In Franco's time he couldn't do it. Among the government's proposals is that archives be reorganised so people can find out what happened. But even on this point, one man's search for historical truth is another's political witch hunt.

The Spanish parliament's debating the bill's final form. The main opposition, the Popular Party, wants it thrown out. The Socialists say that proves the opposition are still closet-Francoists.

Franco is dead. He died in bed - nobody removed him from power. Nobody in Spain - be it the democrats from the right or the left - were capable, able, willing or courageous enough, and, let's face it, courageous enough, to overthrow Franco and his dictatorship.

Just about every Spaniard has a story of the war. Many would rather these stories were not told. Francisco Espinosa wants to tell the story of a father he believes was unjustly killed.

But the Franco years still cast a giant shadow. And that's one reason why so many Spaniards would rather the past remained buried.