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LIFE Magazine
Francisco Franco

On This Day: Spanish Dictator Francisco Franco Dies

November 20, 2011 05:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On Nov. 20, 1975, Generalisimo Francisco Franco died, ending his 36-year dictatorship in Spain.

The Franco Dictatorship

Francisco Franco was a Spanish army general who established his fascist government in 1936. He consolidated power after defeating the left-wing republicans in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-9, placing himself in the position of dictator.

“Franco clinched his grip on an impoverished and backward country by systematic terror,” wrote The New York Times. “There was no press freedom; no trade unions were permitted; only one political party was allowed; the armed forces were omnipresent.”

Franco, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, became deathly ill in October 1975 and, after weeks of speculation over his condition, died on Nov. 20 of heart failure.

Establishment of Democracy in Post-Franco Spain

Franco agreed that the monarchy, which had been deposed in 1931, would be restored after his death. He named Juan Carlos de Borbon, the grandson of the last king of Spain, Alfonso XIII, as his successor as head of state.

King Juan Carlos sought the introduction of a constitutional monarchy and selected Adolfo Suarez to guide the complicated transition as prime minister. In November 1976,  Spain's parliament, the Cortes, voted 425-59 in favor of a bill to establish a democracy. The bill called for the dismantling of the Cortes and the political system established by Franco, and the creation of a new democratically elected Cortes.

The Cortes’ vote for democracy was backed by 94 percent of Spanish voters in referendum a month later. The first democratic elections since 1936 were held in June 1977 to elect members of the new Cortes. The Cortes soon went to work on drafting a new Spanish Constitution that pledged to “Guarantee democratic life” in Spain; it was passed by referendum in December 1978.

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