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Former police officer Juan Antonio González Pacheco, better known as Billy el Niño, died in the early hours of Thursday morning in a Madrid hospital due to coronavirus. Billy el Niño had been repeatedly accused of being a Franco-era torturer, and was at the centre of controversy in recent years in Spain because of the honours he still retained for his police service. Controversy flared up again on social media in the hours after his death, particularly after Podemos MP and Spanish equality minister Irene Montero declared her "rage" with the fact that the former police officer had died with all his state recognition intact.

González Pacheco was a member of Franco's Brigada Político-Social, the arm of the Spanish dictatorship's police force responsible for political and social repression. In 2014, Billy el Niño was the subject of a lawsuit brought by Argentinian judicial authorities against the crimes of the Franco regime, but Spain's National Audience court denied extradition. When the first Pedro Sánchez government came to power in 2018, there was a campaign to have him stripped of medals and decorations he had received throughout his life, incompatible with the allegations of torture. However, in the end, his medals and recognition were never withdrawn.

Equality minister Montero sent a message on Twitter this morning, apologizing for "not having arrived in time" to prosecute him. "The torturer Billy el Niño has died and he has done so with all his recognition, honours, medals and pensions. How enraging. I apologize to all those who fought for democracy in Spain and more to those who suffered his torture because we did not arrive in time," she said.

Some called the Podemos politician "cynical", and others preferred to link directly to the left-wing party's vote in Congress in February, when it opposed a motion to publish Billy el Niño's full record. There were also those who took the opportunity to criticise the current interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, who was the investigating Spanish judge in six of the nine cases for which the European Court of Human Rights condemned Spain for carrying out torture or not investigating claims of torture.

"Irene Montero: 'We didn't arrive in time.'
You have to be very cynical and hard to say this when three months ago the two parties of the [so-called] most progressive government in [Spanish] history voted AGAINST publishing the record of the Francoist torturer Billy el Niño" — @NoEsPotCat

"Today you will see how Podemos and Comuns complain that the Francoist police torturer died without being tried:
[Headline] "Proposal by Basque group Bildu to publish police service record for the Francoist torturer rejected with votes against by PSOE, PP, Vox, Unidas Podemos and Ciudadanos"- Mark Serra

"Podemos expresses its anger at the unpunished death of Billy el Niño, but they don't demand the removal of Spanish interior minister Marlaska, who covered up torture".— Ramir De Porrata-Doria

(Link to headline: "Podemos votes not to make public the record of Francoist torturer Billy el Niño.")