Spanish dictator Francisco Franco’s remains moved 44 years after bitter controversy

The remains of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco have been moved from a vast mausoleum to a low-key grave, 44 years after his elaborate funeral.

The long awaited relocation fulfils a key pledge of the socialist government, which said Spain should not continue to glorify a fascist who ruled the country for nearly four decades.

His family unsuccessfully challenged the reburial in the courts.

The Franco era continues to haunt Spain, now a vibrant democracy.

After the remains were exhumed in a private ceremony, family members carried the coffin out of the basilica of the Valley of the Fallen, a national monument carved into a mountain about 50km (30 miles) from Madrid.

Franco’s remains were then loaded onto a helicopter and taken to a private family vault at a cemetery in Madrid, where they were re-buried next to his late wife.

Only a few people were allowed to attend the event, which took place under high security. They included the justice minister, an expert in forensics, a priest and 22 descendants of Francisco Franco. Media were excluded but more than 200 journalists were near the site.

A crane was needed to lift a concrete slab weighing 1,500kg that covered the coffin. In total, the exhumation and reburial will cost about $70,000.

Who was Francisco Franco?

Francisco Franco was a Spanish general and politician who ruled over Spain as head of state and dictator under the title Caudillo from 1939, after the Nationalist victory in the Spanish Civil War, until his death in 1975.

His reign was marked by both brutal repression, with thousands killed, and economic prosperity, which greatly improved the quality of life in Spain.

In the Spanish Civil War,  Franco’s Nationalist forces remained victories but almost half a million lives were lost.