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(born Dec. 4, 1892, El Ferrol, Spaindied Nov. 20, 1975, Madrid) Spanish general and head of the government of Spain (193975). A career army officer, he was noted as a skillful leader and became army chief of staff in 1935. He joined the insurgents in the Spanish Civil War and was named El Caudillo (The Leader) of the Nationalist forces (1936). In 1937 he reorganized the fascist Falange party into a more pluralistic group and made it the regime's official political movement. Though in sympathy with the Axis Powers in World War II, Spain remained formally neutral, but after the war Franco was ostracized as the last surviving fascist dictator. Relations with other nations regularized with the onset of the Cold War, as Franco became a leading anticommunist statesman. In the 1950s and '60s, his domestic policies moderated, and Spain made great economic progress. He provided for his succession by an official referendum in 1947 that made the Spanish state a monarchy, ratifying his powers as regent for life. In 1969 he designated Prince Juan Carlos as his successor.
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