Spanish dictator loses honorary status

December 1, 2006

Spain's Santiago de Compostela University is to remove General Franco from its list of honorary doctorates. The university's ruling council voted unanimously for the move, saying the former dictator "lacked any scientific, artistic or cultural merit".

General Franco was awarded the title in the faculty of science in 1965 by then rector Ángel Jorge Echeverri. He remained head of state for a further ten years.

About 18 months ago, the university began looking for a legal route for removing the distinction, encouraged by staff librarian Francisco Redondo, who set up a website to collect signatures in favour of the move.

The university statutes do not provide for retroactive withdrawal of an award, but Franco's name will be crossed off the official list of honour.

"The university cannot rewrite history... but it can do things that will help correct dark episodes in the university's past and restore the dignity of this institution," an official statement says.

Lourenzo Fernández Prieto, vice-rector of institutional relations, links the decision to wider moves to take a fresh look at Spain's recent past.

Over the past five years, descendants of people killed during the Spanish Civil War and under Franco have called for the identification and reburial of their relatives. Central Government is considering a law to compensate the victims.

"As grandchildren of the Civil War, we don't have the same hang-ups as those who lived through it or their children," he said. "It is always 25 or 30 years after the events that people start to face up to the trauma."

The university approached the University of Salamanca and Portugal's Coimbra University, both of which also gave Franco a doctorate.

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