ALMOST 200 formerly high-ranking Spanish military officers have demanded “respect” for the late dictator General Francisco Franco.

It came in a manifesto published on the Spanish Military Association’s (AME) website, which is signed by 181 officers.

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All the signatories are named and include colonels, lieutenant colonels, admirals and captains.

Their declaration – “Statement of Respect and Amends for General Francisco Franco Bahamonde, a soldier of Spain” – was made as the government of new Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez continued to press ahead with plans to exhume the dictator’s remains from the Valley of the Fallen, a grand mausoleum he had built using slave labour.

The statement said: “Paying tribute to the heroes who forged Spain and everyone who gave their lives to this country is a debt of gratitude and a stimulus to continue the work of General Franco.

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“Following the permanent attacks on the memory of Franco since his passing, and by erasing – slowly but steadily – any trace of the general’s work for Spain’s sake during the historical time he had to live through, the political left and their friendly media have unleashed a reckless campaign that would boggle the mind, were not for their bent-on-revenge obstinacy to erase half a century of our history by trying to wipe away for good the main architect of the survival of that history.”

The manifesto claimed Franco had excelled himself as a soldier and was loyal to Spain’s Second Republic.

“At a crucial moment for the survival of the Spanish Nation [sic], he assumed the responsibility to exercise command.

“The country was besieged by international communism which was accepted by the Popular Front.”

It added that Franco’s figure was being used “to conceal the truth of territorial undoing today in Spain and the flagrant inequality between Spaniards”.