Basque Political Prisoners Want Peace, but Governments of France and Spain Don’t

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By: Carlos de Urabá / Source: Resumen Latinoamericano / The Dawn News / January 14, 2017

From December 10, 2016, to January 8, 2017, a national campaign was held in Usurbil, (Gipuzkoa, Basque Country) to create awareness about the situation of the political prisoners of the Spanish state.

The campaign, called “Kalera, Kalera”(1) was led by former political prisoners from the ETA organization, which has been outlawed by the Spanish state. In a big tent placed in the main square of Usurbil, they held several activities such as conferences, meetings and concerts, to disseminate information and gather support.  321 former political prisoners were present at this tent.

The core message was the need to repatriate the political prisoners that are currently being held in Spanish or French prisons. The main slogans were, as always: “Presoak Etxera” (“Bring the prisoners back home”) and “Euskal presoak, euskal herrira” (“Basque prisoners to Basque country”).

All across Basque Country, many demonstrations, marches, conferences and concerts were held by associations, parties, city councils, and unions in support of this campaign.

The main goal of the “Kalera, Kalera” campaign was to force the Spanish government to reactivate the peace talks (which are paralyzed since 2011, when ETA announced the ceasefire). They want the Spanish state to cease its policy of moving the prisoners far away from their communities to isolate them, to release prisoners that are ill and to derogue the exceptional laws that are applied to Basque prisoners.

But sadly, the campaign is over and the authorities of Spain and France have decided to maintain their repressive and warlike policies.

The Minister of Interior Affairs, the National Audience and the Spanish security forces are set on boycotting any kind of gesture of goodwill by ETA, such as the offer to hand over their weapons and to maintain an open, unconditional dialogue.carpa-de-e1484485148116 

The hostile attitude of the Spanish Popular Party and its ally, the PSOEA, is not surprising. Right now, a true and believable solution to the Basque conflict is out of reach. And to make things worse, the Spanish public opinion is completely against any sort of dialogue, thanks to decades of media manipulation. The Association of Victims of Terrorism, which has connections with the highest ranks of government and justice, is the main cause of this boycott.

While ETA reaches out, the Spanish kingdom responds with offenses and threats. Madrid will only accept an unconditional surrender and dismantling of ETA, complete cooperation of the prisoners with justice, public repentance, apologies and indemnization to the victims, and informing on everyone that participated in armed actions. They don’t call them peace negotiations but surrender negotiations. In other words, this means to accept that the Spanish kingdom legitimately rules over Basque territory. The PP is determined to rebuild the feeling of Spanishness in the population, and in order to do that it needs to subdue the Basque people.

To counter this situation, Basque people need to promote the peace process. All Basque political parties need to become involved and put pressure on the Spanish government so that it agrees to take part in negotiations.

The Spanish state applies the Law of Public Safety (or Gag Law) with an iron fist, relentlessly persecuting any sort of civil disobedience, restricting freedom of expression and violating human rights.

Any spoken or written opinion, demonstration or homage of Basque nationalism can be considered “apology of terrorism” by Spain. And this is followed by a search warrant to enter the home of suspects, arbitrary detentions, imprisonments and deportation to the premises of the National Audience in Madrid. For example, simply belonging to a group that is related to the Basque National Liberation Movement can be punished with 6 to 9 years of prison. These are “crimes of opinion”, completely unrelated to armed struggle.

Both France and Spain completely refuse to find a two-part solution to the conflict, and pejoratively compare ETA to ISIS to discredit their struggle.

Nevertheless, the results of the latest elections indicate that there’s a majority supporting nationalist parties that advocate peace. Basque citizens have supported proposals of peace and freedom, and for political prisoners to come back home.img_1499

The abertzale (nationalist) left defends the Basque people’s right to decide and govern itself, to pave the road to the complete and definitive independence. This process is in a stalemate since the right-wing Basque Nationalist Party decided to maintain the status of Basque Country as an “associate state” to Spain (like Puerto Rico is to the US). According to them, independence is a utopian ideal and the best bet is to become a part of Europe, which is one of the biggest powers of this globalized world.

But many Basque people say: Basque prisoners to the streets, Kalera, kalera! Presoak kalera! (Prisoners to the streets!) Amnistia Osoa! (Amnesty for all). Gora Euskadi! (Long Live the Basque Country!). Therefore, more mobilizations and campaigns are expected in 2017.

Kalera literally means “street” and refers to the call to let prisoners out to the streetimg_1613-768x512

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