More than four decades after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco, the Spanish government has said it continues to pay bonuses to 115 police officers who were awarded medals during his regime, including one officer accused of multiple acts of torture.
The revelation came last week in response to a parliamentary question about a custom of boosting the pensions of officers who win awards. With each medal yielding a pension bonus of as much as 15%, the question asked how many now-retired officers had been given honours before 1979 and, as such, receive topped-up pensions from the Spanish government.
“It’s unacceptable,” said Jon Iñarritu, a politician for the Basque party EH Bildu, who submitted the question. “Their only accomplishment was to violate human rights.”
The six-line answer to his question, seen by the Guardian, did not detail the total amount the government spends annually in boosting their pensions, nor did it address questions over the identities of the officers and the reasons they were honoured.
But among the known beneficiaries is Antonio González Pacheco, whose four medals have increased his pension by 50% – even as he has come to symbolise the brutality of the Franco dictatorship.
Nicknamed Billy the Kid for his habit of spinning his pistol around his finger, González Pacheco has long faced accusations of brutal beatings and the torturing of political activists – including at one point a pregnant woman – during the Franco era and the years that followed.
In 2013 he was charged with multiple accounts of torture by an Argentinian judge looking into the crimes committed by former officials during the dictatorship.
Spain’s high court denied the extradition request, however, ruling the alleged crimes fell outside the statute of limitations.
The awards and bonuses given to González Pacheco have been catapulted into the national conversation in recent years, as Spain’s socialists and other political parties on the left push to dismantle the lingering vestiges of Franco’s regime – a campaign that most notably led to Franco’s remainsbeing helicoptered out of a state mausoleum last year.
Shortly after taking power this year, the socialists reiterated their longstanding promise to strip González Pacheco of his medals and pension top-up. But their efforts have been stymied by questions over the legal feasibility of doing so.
Iñarritu said he would continue to submit written questions to the Spanish government in the hope of pressuring them to carry out their promise. “I think it’s just a matter of common sense,” he said. “In any other EU member state, no one who had violated human rights would have the right to hold on to their honours.”