The tunnels in La Cala del Moral where the annual anniversary of La Desbandá is marked / m. fernández

Majority support in Congress for La Desbandá to be declared a Site of Democratic Memory

Thousands of people were killed and injured as they fled Malaga by road to Almeria when the city was invaded by Franco’s troops in February 1937 during the Civil War

Antonio M. Romero
ANTONIO M. ROMERO

The Spanish parliament, the Congreso de los Diputados, showed broad support during its session on on Tuesday afternoon for the government to declare La Desbandá, when thousands of people were killed and injured as they fled Malaga by road to Almeria when the city was invaded by Franco’s troops in February 1937 during the Civil War, as a Place of Democratic Memory.

The Proposición no de Ley (PNL) presented by the socialist PSOE group, was debated and defended by the MP for Malaga, Ignacio López. In addition to the Socialists, the PNV, Unidas Podemos and Junts per Cataluña spoke in favour of the initiative and Ciudadanos and Bildu also showed their support. Far-right group Vox announced that it would vote against the proposal and the centre-right Partido Popular (PP) is expected to abstain in the vote which is due to take place on Thursday (24 March).

During his speech, López argued that it was "a moral duty" to give "recognition and dignity" to the victims of the Desbandá and he called for the support of the political groups "for truth, reparation and justice for the victims so that this tragic episode is not forgotten in history because it is the best guarantee for it not to be repeated."

Crucero Baleares

The Malaga MP took the opportunity to request that the Mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez Almeida, change the name of the street named after the Crucero Baleares cruise ship, which took part in the attacks on those fleeing along the road to Almería.

The same request was made by Podemos MP Martina Velarde, who said that the name of the street was "a stab in the back to Andalucía". She also called on her PSOE colleagues to vote in favour of the law and to guarantee that the crimes committed during the Franco era be tried. Néstor Rego (BNG) and Josep Pagés (Junts) also expressed similar views.

Ukraine comparison

Óskar Matute, a Bildu MP, drew a comparison between the Spanish Civil War and the current conflict in Ukraine, saying that the bombing of those fleeing Franco's troops in February 1937 was "the first sabotage" of a humanitarian corridor.

From the centre-right bloc, the Ciudadanos MP for Málaga, Guillermo Díaz, expressed his support for the initiative and called for such episodes not to be used as a weapon to create anger and hatred. He ended his speech with the words spoken in July 1938 by the then President of Spain, Manuel Azaña: "Peace, mercy and forgiveness".

Rewrite history

Vox deputy Francisco José Contreras announced that his group would vote against the initiative, considering it to be motivated by "a desire for revenge" and by the "need for the left to rewrite history and its pathological obsession to win the Civil War 83 years after its conclusion."

He was also critical of initiatives that only pay tribute to the victims of one side or the other, calling on the socialists to declare the site of Can Tretze in Catalonia a Site of Democratic Memory, where in the final weeks of the war prisoners from Franco’s nationalists side, including the Bishop of Teruel, Anselmo Polanco, were shot by the Republicans.

In addition, Contreras gave an alternative version version of the story, claiming that the victims of'La Desbandá, rather than the bombings, were caused by "the logistical lack of foresight of the Republican side, which provoked a great humanitarian catastrophe".

Bleeding wound

From the PP, the deputy Vicente Mateu accused the PSOE of wanting to "reopen a bleeding wound" of the Civil War by forgetting crimes committed by the Republicans and has argued that Congress should deal with the issues that "now concern" the Spanish people, such as the need for the government to sit down and talk to hauliers who are currently striking, to lower taxes or for Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to talk about the change in Spain's position on the Sahara.

Although Mateu didn’t say which way his party would vote on Thursday, sources consulted said that the PP will abstain.