Death at 91 of one of former Spanish dictator's last ministers

The basilica of the Valle de los Caidos (The Valley of the Fallen), a monument to the Francoist combatants who died during the Spanish civil war, is also Franco's final resting place just outside Madrid.
The basilica of the Valle de los Caidos (The Valley of the Fallen), a monument to the Francoist combatants who died during the Spanish civil war, is also Franco's final resting place just outside Madrid.PHOTO: AFP

MADRID (AFP) - One of the last ministers to serve under former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, Jose Utrera Molina, has died at the age of 91, his son said Saturday (April 22).

Luis Felipe announced the death of his father in a letter of mourning on the Francisco Franco National Foundation website.

"They may take your name off the walls of the street," he said, referring to ongoing moves by towns to remove street names honouring Franco-era figures.

"But nothing will take away the gratitude of thousands of families."

"(The body of) Jose Utrera Molina is here," a mortuary official at Nerja, near the southern city of Malaga, told AFP by phone on Saturday. "It's the Franco minister."

In the last two years of the Franco dictatorship- which lasted from 1939 to 1975- Molina served as housing minister, then as deputy head of the Nationalist Movement - the fascists' vehicle for social, corporate and economic policy - and finally deputy head of government.

In 2014, an Argentine judge tried to have Molina and other senior Franco officials extradited for human rights abuses.

Spain rejected the bid, as it had passed an amnesty law in 1977, two years after Franco's death, for crimes committed under his regime.

An unrepentant Franco loyalist, Molina was a signatory to the death warrant in 1974 of a young anarchist, Salvador Puig Antich, accused of murdering a policeman.

Molina attended a mass in Madrid last November in honour of Franco, alongside the dictator's only daughter, Carmen Franco, 90.