Spain has started exhuming the embalmed body of the late Spanish dictator Francisco Franco from his grandiose mausoleum outside Madrid so he can be reburied in a small family crypt north of the capital.
"The exhumation process at the tomb of Francisco Franco has begun," a government spokesman said.
The government-ordered, closed-door operation on Thursday satisfies a decades-old desire of many in Spain who considered the vainglorious mausoleum that Franco built an affront to the tens of thousands who died in Spain's Civil War and his subsequent regime and to Spain's standing as a modern democratic state.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has made moving the remains of "El Caudillo" (The Leader) a priority since coming to power in June 2018, saying Spain should not "continue to glorify" a man who ruled with an iron fist after the bloody 1936-39 civil war that his Nationalist forces won.
"It is a great victory for dignity, memory, justice and reparation — and thus for Spanish democracy," Sanchez said of the historic moment, which comes just over a fortnight before a general election.
The event, which has been criticized by some conservatives, was broadcast live by Spain's main TV channels and media websites. Justice Minister Dolores Delgado was also on hand to represent the government, but no journalists were allowed in.
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