Francisco Franco

Francisco Franco

Was a Spanish general and the Caudillo of Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975. Coming from a military family background, he became the youngest general in Spain and one of the youngest generals in Europe in the 1920’s. As a conservative monarchist, he rejected the removal of the monarchy and its replacement with a republic in 1931. With the 1936 elections, the conservative Spanish Confederation of Autonomous Right-wing Groups lost by a narrow margin and the leftist Popular Front came to power. Looking to overthrow the republic, Franco and other generals staged a partially successful coup, which started the Spanish Civil War. With the death of the other generals, Franco quickly became his faction’s only leader.

Ferrol, a strategic port in the far north-west of Spain, located in a characteristic Galician Ria, was in a time a town of about 20.000 inhabitants, whose economic life revolved around the naval base, created in 1726. The Franco family was part of the little bourgeoisie of administrative officials, which in the rigid social hierarchy of provincial towns was second to the families of boarded naval officers.

On 29 August 1907, Franco entered the academy, where he met many future comrades. It was not an easy period for him: separated from his mother figure and from the environment in which he grew up, he had to suffer the occasional harassment and hazing of his companions, due to his skinny look and reserved attitude. Franco engaged assiduously in the study of subjects such as topography and military history and expressed total adherence to the principles that the academy purposed to instill in cadets: obedience, heroism, courage and sense of duty. Many decades later, he talked about those years as a “tough ordeal.”

Three years later, he was awarded the rank of second lieutenant of infantry. In 1912, he graduated from the Military Academy and left immediately for Morocco, where the war was raging. In separate clashes, he behaved with honour an great valour and the descriptions of his exploits in the Spanish newspapers began to give him a certain fame at home. In 1914, aged only 21 years old, he was promoted to the rank of captain for merit. Francisco Franco became known not only for his decisiveness on the battlefield, but also for his organizational skills.

A bloody civil war, which was supported by Nazi Germany and fascist Italy went on for three years, was won in April 1939. The Generalísimo assumed the ultimate leadership of Spain, establishing a dictatorial apparatus that firmly repressed all opposition to the regime, extolling the values of national Catholicism (God, country and Justice). Franco was not aligned with other fascist regimes and wasn’t anti-Semitic. He has taken in a large number of Jews fleeing the invaded Europe by the Germans.

In 1940 Franco met with Hitler in Hendaye and the following year he met with Mussolini in Bordighera, but despite pressures of the Germans and Italians, he chose to keep Spain neutral and only decided to send volunteers against the Soviet Union (the so-called “División Azul”). In 1942, at the request of the German dictator, Franco decided to change the time zone of Spain, adjusting to that of neighbouring France: since then, the Iberians are one hour ahead of the solar time in winter and two hours ahead in summer. Being a sincere, devout Catholic and rigid anti-communist, Pope Pius XII gave Franco in 1953 the Supreme Order of Christ, the highest honour of the Vatican.

At the end of the conflict, he came close to the Western countries, and taking advantage of the Cold War, emerged as a supporter and an opponent of anti-communism and of the anarchic “spectrum”. In September 1953, he concluded an economic agreement with the United States of America and, in 1957, he restructured the government to lift the country from the complex economic situation, appointing some qualified and professionally trained “technocrats” ministers.

The year before, Francisco Franco had founded the RTVE, launching thus television in the Iberian country, which after a few years, will be financed directly by the State. He entrusted the administration of the country to Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, who was appointed the prime minister and named some of the few ministers from the ACNP (Asociación Católica Nacional de Propagandistas) and from Opus Dei (the Ministry of Finance, Mariano Navarro Rubio and the Ministry of  Trade, Alberto Ullastres. Then, he chose another two: Gregorio Lopez Bravo, Minister of Industry, and Laureano Lopez Rodo, General Commissioner of the economic development plan. In 1947, he restored the monarchy, of which he proclaimed himself regent, and in 1969 he appointed his successor: Prince Juan Carlos of Bourbon, who at his death, was crowned King of Spain.

After leading 12 governments, on 8 June 1973 he left the position of prime minister to Luis Carrero Blanco, but was killed in an attack of the separatist terrorist group ETA, in the next December, on the date of 20. In its place, Franco appointed Carlos Arias Navarro.

Franco suffered of Parkinson’s disease in his old age, which accompanied him until his death on 20 November 1975, exactly 39 years after the death of Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera. Historian Ricardo de la Cierva, however, claimed to have been informed of his death on the evening of 19 November. He is buried in the Valley of the Fallen, not far from El Escorial, Madrid. Francisco Franco is revered as a saint by schismatic Palmarian Catholic Church.

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