Spain divided anew by law for Civil War victims

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MADRID, Oct 9 (Reuters) Spain's parliament will vote this month on whether to officially condemn the Franco dictatorship, reopening a debate over the country's 1930s civil war that exposes fault lines still dividing Spanish society.

The Socialist government first sent the ''historic memory'' law to parliament more than a year ago. The law became bogged down until an agreement was reached with minority parties yesterday and will now be voted on at the end of October.

The civil war and the dictatorship which followed join a set of emotive issues, including separatism in the Basque Country and the future of the monarchy, dominating Spanish politics ahead of general elections next March.

More than three decades after the death of dictator Gen.

Francisco Franco, a legacy of hatred and ideological division still simmers below the surface of today's prosperous Spain.

The conservative opposition, founded by former Franco supporters, greeted the law's revival with a furious attack on Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose grandfather was killed by Franco's soldiers during the war.

''Zapatero has brought division, confrontation and reopened the wounds of the past,'' said Angel Acebes, general secretary of the Popular Party, narrowly behind the Socialists in most opinion polls ahead of the elections.

Analysts say this type of issue could rally conservative voters.

The ruling Socialists also fear many of the younger left-leaning supporters who helped to give them a surprise victory in 2004 in the wake of deadly bombings in Madrid may not vote this time round.

The law would recognise victims of the civil war, in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed, and declare many sentences passed by Franco's courts ''illegitimate.'' ''This will provide a definitive reparation and recognition for those who suffered in the civil war,'' said the Socialists' spokesman in the lower house of parliament, Diego Lopez Garrido.

The law would also encourage local authorities to help relatives of people killed in the war find bodies dumped decades ago in mass graves. For decades, people around Spain stayed silent about atrocities they knew had occurred in their towns and villages, often out of fear.

''My grandmother had to scrub the floor of the people who'd killed her husband,'' wrote Eloy Alonso, grandson of a man shot by Franco's forces in 1938, in newspaper Publico on Tuesday.

''They didn't let her wear mourning clothes because our dead didn't exist,'' Alonso wrote.

Reuters SG RS1845

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