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30/03/2011 - Spanish property of General Francisco Franco opens to public  30/03/2011 - Spanish property of General Francisco Franco opens to public

30/03/2011 - Spanish property of General Francisco Franco opens to public

Spain: The former summer palace of Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco has finally been opened to the public.

The Palace of Pazo de Meirás in Northwest Spain has been the subject of a dispute between Franco’s family and the Spanish Government since his death in 1975.

Following his death it passed to his daughter, Carmen, who became the first Duchess of Franco.

For many years there has been growing pressure on Carmen to open the house to the public.

In 2007 a petition signed by residents of Galicia and approved by local authorities declared the property a listed building. This meant the family had to open the house to the public four times a month and also required them to take proper care of it, due to its historical and cultural value.

However, the family refused to open the palace and would not allow local government officials to inspect the building to make sure it was being well maintained. A court order eventually forced them open the doors to the inspectors.

At the time, campaigners were demanding that the palace be taken from the Franco family without compensation.

A legal challenge brought by the Spanish Government in 2008 eventually led to a court ruling in October 2010 which classified the property as a national monument and ordered that it was opened to the public.

Following the ruling, town councillors in Sada announced that the 19th Century palace must open for “public use”.

"This town hall is working to make sure the Pazo de Meirás can become public property in the shortest possible time," said Sada's mayor, Abel López.

The palace was owned by novelist Emilia Pardo Baza until 1921 when it was bought with public funds. The property was signed over to Franco in 1939, the year the civil war finished and his thirty six year dictatorship began.

The palace of Pazo de Meirá stands on six hectares of land amid the ruins of an ancient fort. It was used by Franco as a retreat during the summer holidays, when he would return to his native Galicia to fish and hunt.

Franco’s rise to power:

When the left-wing Popular Front Party (El Frente Popular) won the general elections in Spain in 1936, an army rebellion followed. The conservative army generals, led by General Francisco Franco, attempted a military coup to depose the elected government in July 1936. The coup ultimately failed and led to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

In September 1936, Franco became General dél Ejercito Nacionalista (General of the Nationalist Army) and in October 1936 he rose to the position of Head of State (Jefe del Estado).

In November 1936, Nazi Germany and Fascist Spain recognised Franco as the legitimate ruler of Spain.

Franco’s government was recognised as legitimate by the French and the British in February 1939. In April 1939, America also recognised Franco as head of Spain.

Franco’s right-wing regime remained in control of Spain using censorship, coercion and intimidation; including the imprisonment of people opposed to his ideologies in concentration camps.

In July 1947, a law was passed that made Franco head of state for life.

After he died in November 1975 Spain moved into a democratic transition and the monarchy was restored when King Juan Carlos became head of state, as Franco had decreed.

Today symbols of Franco’s regime, including the national coat of arms, are banned in Spain.

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