A judge in Galicia has given the Spanish government the green light to expropriate without compensation a country house occupied by the heirs of dictator Francisco Franco, who you could argue have been squatting in the property since his death.
It seems the Pazo de Meirás (pictured), a type of Galician manor house used by Franco as a summer residence, was acquired for the Spanish caudillo by a group of supporters in 1938, during the civil war, using forced subscriptions from many people who weren’t supporters, and was gifted to the ‘head of state’, not Franco personally. At the time his supporters didn’t distinguish between the man and his office, but it’s a relevant distinction now.
His family have been using the property as their own ever since, even though, I’m told by friends in the know, the Spanish state has been picking up the bill for most of its running costs. The State finally decided to get back the keys to the property, but it took years in court to win the case to kick the Franco family out. As diligent readers will know, squatting is a big problem in Spain, and it can take a lot of time and money in court to get squatters out.
It seems that in 1941, after his side had won the civil war, Franco faked a deed, or escritura, to make it look like he had bought the property in his own name, but he didn’t pay anything for it, and the judge has ruled the deed a fake, null and void.
The Franco family argued they should be compensated for maintaining the property over 80 years, but they lost that argument too, because the judge ruled the family had acquired the property “in bad faith”. I’m told that the running costs picked up by the State in the years since Franco’s death far exceed the money spent by the family on upkeep, so it sounds like a spurious argument.
Franco’s grandchildren are going to appeal the judgement, which they say is “evidently political”, and all part of a crusade against their family, and the dictator’s historical legacy, by a left-wing Spanish government. I don’t know if that means they can continue using the property as their own for many more years whilst the appeal inches its way through the Spanish legal system, of if the state can boot them out like squatters now.
In 2019, the Franco family lost another battle with the Spanish government over the final resting place of the mouldy remains of the long-dead dictator, which were moved from the Valley of the Fallen, a controversial civil war memorial located north of Madrid, to a local cemetery.