The Generalitat will dismantle the Franco monument in Tortosa this summer

The mayor of Tortosa says the council had neither the power nor the resources to withdraw it

The 45-metre wrought-iron pyramid, pierced by shrapnel holes that gradually turn into candles and crosses, built in 1966 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Franco's victory at the Battle of the Ebro, will soon disappear from the landscape of Tortosa. The intention is to remove it from the river Ebro as it passes through Tortosa this summer so that it can be preserved in its entirety and easily transported and stored. It will not be an easy task because of its large dimensions: it has two pyramids, one of 16 meters tall and the other of about 40 meters tall. The cost of the operation will be about 200,000 euros.

"It shows what we have always said as a city council. We had been unfairly criticised: we could not dismantle it because it is not within our competence, nor are we owners or had the resources to do it", said the mayor of Tortosa, Convergència's Meritxell Roigé and Pedrola. "Now the country's government has decided to withdraw it. For many people the monument has been part of the city and has not aroused any discontent despite its origin. Whether we like it or not, different generations have grown up not seeing it as a monument to Franco but as an element that was part of the landscape," added the mayor, who also called for the Catalan government's action not to be limited to removing the monument but to rebuild the bridge that was destroyed during the Civil War and which linked the two sides of the river.

No one takes ownership

The Councillor for Justice, Ester Capella, reminded us that the monument is a symbol of Franco's regime. "The permanence of this monument shows us the weakness of Spanish democracy". Capella does believe that the monument sends a message. "Nobody can question what it meant," said Capella, "the discourse of the victors". And he added: "Tortosa City Council confirms that it is not the owner, the Ebro Hydrographic Confederation and the Spanish government also deny it". Nobody assumes the ownership but the Councillor has assured that the Generalitat has taken responsibility to be able to withdraw it. "We assume it because of the failure of the State to appear - she has specified -. The monument is in the riverbed and is state-owned". Capella has said that the monument will be kept in one of the warehouses that the Generalitat has in the territory and that once it is dismantled nothing will be built on the pedestal but that there is a study to record that there was a Francoist symbol there. The vice-president with functions of president, Pere Aragonès, in the same line as Capella has reiterated that the monument is an "insult" to those who lost the war: "It was thought so that the victims would bow their heads and this is intolerable in a democracy"

A long and controversial process

Parliament approved a motion to remove the monument to Franco on March 10, 2016 without any consultation or delay. But that motion fell on deaf ears. On 28 May of that year, the conservation of the monument was put to a referendum, and the option of maintaining the monument won. However, part of the plan was to reinterpret it, which was never done. "We are working with the will to comply with the planned calendar and to promote the reinterpretation of the monument within this mandate," said the then converging mayor, Ferran Bel, in March 2017.

Much earlier there had been other attempts to remove this Franco symbol, which had been changing, but not much, throughout the more than 40 years of democracy. In 1980 Tortosa Council removed the Victor (Franco's personal anagram) and the letters that read: " To the Warlord of the Crusade and the 25 years of peace". In 2008 the plaques commemorating the inauguration were removed. In 2010 the PP and CiU allied to save the Franco pyramid and defeated an ICV motion that raised a question about its removal.

There has also been a legal struggle to remove the monument: on May 30, 2016, the Madrid lawyer Eduardo Ranz, a specialist in historical memory, filed a lawsuit in the courts asking for the removal of the monument and the creation of a catalogue of Franco monuments. However, the court rejected the petition, stating that the monolith does not belong to Tortosa Council. And this has been the other argument for not moving the monument until now: it was not clear who the owner was. It cost 4 million pesetas, paid by the bishopric of Tortosa, the Diputació de Tarragona and the Franco dictatorship.

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