By Alyssa McMurtry
OVIEDO, Spain (AA) - The Spanish Supreme Court on Tuesday approved the government’s plans to move the body of Spain’s former dictator Francisco Franco.
Franco has been buried in Spain’s controversial Valley of the Fallen monument since shortly after his death in 1975. The towering monument boasts the world’s largest memorial cross -- three times as high as the leaning tower of Pisa -- and one of the largest basilicas in the world.
The monument was constructed in part by political prisoners of the Francoist regime and is also the site of a mass grave that contains victims from both sides of the Spanish Civil War.
The Valley of the Fallen has long been a place of pilgrimage for Franco’s supporters, who often place fresh flowers on his grave.
Spain’s Socialist government had promised to move Franco’s remains to a more neutral site, which would not glorify the former dictator who ruled Spain for 35 years. Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling, which was unanimous, now gives the state permission to move Franco’s remains to a cemetery outside of Madrid, so he can be buried alongside his wife.
Carmen Calvo, Spain’s acting vice president, told Spanish broadcaster La Sexta that the government will carry out the exhumation "as soon as possible".
First thing Tuesday morning, new national elections were also triggered in Spain for Nov. 10, but Calvo has suggested that the government will exhume and rebury Franco before the election campaign begins in November.
Families of the victims of Franco and left-wing politicians have expressed their enthusiasm for this historic Supreme Court decision.
Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called it a "great victory for Spanish democracy," tweeting: "the determination to repair the suffering of the victims of the Francoist regime has always guided the actions of this government".
Pablo Iglesias, leader of the far-left party Podemos said the exhumation is "an extremely important step" in "repairing the shame" that Spain has dealt with since it became a democracy.
But not everyone is happy with the decision.
"This is how the Socialist campaign begins: desecrating graves, unburying old hatreds and questioning the legitimacy of the monarchy," tweeted Santiago Abascal, leader of Spain’s far-right party Vox.
"Unfortunately, Franco’s dictatorship finished 44 years ago. Sanchez has been playing with his bones for the last year to divide us into 'reds' and 'blues', but many Spaniards, at this point in time, don’t care," tweeted the leader of the center-right party Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera.