Spain will temporarily shut the mausoleum where Francisco Franco is buried from today to avoid any disturbances as authorities prepare to exhume the dictator's remains.
Spain's ruling Socialists have long sought to remove Franco's remains and turn the Valley of the Fallen complex near the capital Madrid into a memorial to the 500,000 people who were killed during the 1936-39 civil war.
A council of ministers approved the details of the operation yesterday, following a green light for the move from Spain's Supreme Court in September.
The mausoleum also holds the bodies of 34,000 Spaniards who died during the war, including many from the losing Republican side whose bodies were moved there during Franco's rule without the permission of their families.
A government source said the mausoleum was being closed temporarily due to concerns Franco sympathisers and protesters alike might gather at the site, which has only one entrance.
"We want the most technical safety possible and the least disturbance for our citizens," acting Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo told a news conference yesterday.
The location of Franco's tomb continues to fracture Spanish opinion with 43% in favour of the move and 32.5% against, according to a poll published by El Mundo on Monday.
Calvo said the exhumation was due to take place by Oct. 25 though a second government source said it would probably happen between Oct. 18 and Oct. 22.
Operational details will only be released to family members and the media 48 hours before the disinterment. There will be no media access during the operation.
Franco's remains will be moved to the Mingorrubio El Pardo state cemetery north of Madrid where his wife is buried. Calvo did not rule the option of moving the remains by helicopter.