Spain: demand justice in 1976 Vitória massacre

The Association of Victims of March 3 in Vitória, Spain, marked the 37th anniversary of the massacre at the Basque Country city with a public demonstration demanding that the Madrid government officially recognize the facts of the incident, which they say have been excised from the history of the democratic transition after the death of dictator Francisco Franco. The demonstration was coordinated with protests against Spain's pending neoliberal education reform, which brought 3,000 to Vitória's streets. Similar numbers were reported in Bilbao, the largest city in the Basque Country, or Euskal Herria.

Shortly after the dictator's passing in November 1975, workers in Vitória went on general strike to press for restoration of the rights to unionize and to free assembly, suspended since Franco consolidated power in 1939, after the Spanish Civil War. On March 3, 1976, hundreds of workers held a public assembly in the city's Church of San Francisco—which was broken up by the Civil Guard. Troops opened fire on the gathering, leaving five young workers dead and some 100 wounded. In the first massive public demonstration in Spain since the '30s, some 50,000 took to the streets for the funerals of the young men, in defiance of the authorities. The incident raised pressure on the Franco regime, which remained essentially in place despite the strongman's passing, to restore democracy. But survivors are demanding a "clear and total" recognition of the massacre, and the culpability of officials.

Especially named are then-minister of interior (Gobernación), Manuel Fraga Iribarne; Franco-appointed premier Carols Arias Navarro; and King Juan Carlos de Borbón, who acceded to the throne upon Franco's death. Fraga and Arais have since died, but Juan Carlos remains king and is generally credited with overseeing Spain's democratic transition. The Victims Association is calling upon the newly elected lehendakari (executive) of the Basque Country, Iñigo Urkullu, to take up the cause with the central government. (EFE, Diario Vasco, March 3; Noticias de Álava, March 2; Noticias de Álava, Feb. 27; Diario Vasco, Feb. 19; Portal Libertario Oaca, Jan. 17, 2012; Devuélveme La VozCNT Puerto Real)