Spanish woman who was one of Franco’s ‘stolen babies’ is reunited with her biological family after taking a DNA test in the US
- Ines Madrigal, 50, found four half siblings through the American DNA bank
- She was abducted under General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in 1969
- During Franco’s reign thousands of babies were taken from left-wing opponents
- ‘Stolen babies’ were adopted by pro-Franco parents from 1939 to 1975
Ines Madrigal, 50, outside a court in Madrid in October last year
A Spanish woman who was one of Franco’s ‘stolen babies’ has been reunited with her biological family after taking a DNA test in America.
Ines Madrigal, 50, was able to find four half siblings through the DNA bank after she was abducted in widespread trafficking which took place under General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship from 1939 to 1975.
Tens of thousands of babies were taken from left-wing opponents and given to pro-Franco parents supposed to be devout Roman Catholics.
‘I have four siblings, who are marvellous people and have opened their arms to me,’ she told a press conference in Madrid. ‘At last I have completed the puzzle of my life. Now I know who I am and where I come from.’
Last year a court ruled that gynaecologist Eduardo Vela abducted Madrigal in 1969, faking her birth by her adoptive parents and forging official documents, only to clear him because the statute of limitations had expired.
Madrigal now says that her newfound relatives have told her that her mother gave her up willingly.
That revelation appears likely to hurt her chances of getting a verdict against Vela when Spain’s Supreme Court hears her appeal to last year’s ruling at a future date yet to be determined.
Madrigal said: ‘At last I have completed the puzzle of my life. Now I know who I am and where I come from’
The state prosecutor’s office in Madrid issued a statement on Thursday to say that given the new twist in Madrigal’s case it does not consider that she was stolen.
But Madrigal said she remains convinced that Vela broke the law by hiding her true origins.
‘He should have registered my birth and he did not do so,’ Madrigal said. ‘He treated me like a puppy. The State never knew I existed.’
General Francisco Franco ruled over Spain until his death in 1975 after he seized power in the Spanish Civil War
Madrigal’s case was Spain’s first to go to trial in the child trafficking that occurred from the onset of the country’s Civil War in 1936 to the death of General Franco in 1975.
Most lawsuits have been rejected by courts for coming after the statute of limitations expired.
Spain only started investigating the stolen babies cases a decade ago, when magistrate Baltasar Garzon opened a probe into the more than 30,000 children that were under the care of the right-wing regime.
Franco’s regime took away the children of poor families, prisoners or political enemies, sometimes stripping women of their newborns by lying and saying they had died during labor. The children were then given to pro-Franco families or the church.
The regime saw the removal of the children as a chance to give them a Catholic upbringing in homes that it considered loyal to its cause and stoutly against what it considered the threat of leftist forces it had crushed in the war.
THE RISE OF GENERAL FRANCISCO FRANCO AND FASCIST SPAIN
The Spanish Civil War is considered a watershed moment in 20th century European history because it tipped the balance of power in favour of the Fascist movement.
In 1929 the military dictatorship that had been ruling Spain collapsed. Two years later the King of Spain abdicated when the left-wing Republicans came to power.
It set in motion a bitter battle for power that was to be played out in the deeply divided country over the next seven years.
The Valley of the Fallen, the mausoleum holding the remains of Francisco Franco, in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, outside Madrid
When the army rebelled in 1936, the country slipped into all out civil war, with the Nationalists, made up of landowners, business owners, the gentry and the church, on one side, against the Republicans, comprising the workers and peasants, on the other.
Led by General Francisco Franco and supplied with weapons by Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Fascist Italy, the Nationalists had the upper hand.
Although the Republicans were assisted by Communist Russia, they did not receive the same level of support and were finally defeated in 1939, just months before the outbreak of the Second World War.
Britain and France had both signed a non-assistance pact preventing aid from reaching Spain, although they were powerless to stop Germany’s help from getting through.
Many young inspired Brits rushed to help the Republican movement, with eminent writers George Orwell and Laurie Lee among them.
Franco was to rule the country with an iron grip for 36 years between 1939 and 1975 and survived the fall of Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany after the Second World War. His regime had remained neutral throughout the conflict.
He effectively ruled Spain as a dictator from 1939 until his death, and brutally oppressed political opponents during that period, although the precise numbers of those who died or disappeared as a consequence of his policies is unknown.
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