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Legislating History

NEW YORK -- In October, the Spanish parliament passed a Law on Historical Memory, which bans rallies and memorials celebrating the late dictator Francisco Franco. His Falangist regime will be officially denounced and its victims honored.

There are plausible reasons for enacting such a law. Many people killed by the Fascists during the Spanish Civil War lie unremembered in mass graves. There is still a certain degree of nostalgia on the far right for Fanco’s dictatorship. People gathered at his tomb earlier this year chanted “We won the Civil War!”, while denouncing socialists and foreigners, especially Muslims. Reason enough, one might think, for Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to use the law to exorcize the demons of dictatorship for the sake of democracy’s good health.