Basque guerrilla ETA has issued yet another communication. The full text in Basque, along with a synthesis in Spanish, can be read at Gara.
Votes or bombs?
After denouncing the persistent and growing political repression by Spain, they argue that while the Basque Nationalist Left has clearly replied to the riddle "votes or bombs" by choosing votes and that it is now the Spanish state the one who must allow the people to speak democratically.
In this sense they declare that ETA is ready to do whatever is necessary for a democratic solution to be reached. However they ratify themselves into the defense of the rights of the Basque Country. "Until Freedom is achieved we won't give up!", they conclude.
ETA has not attacked in the last many many months (since August 2009), excepting the "accidental" (not planned) shooting last week at Paris, that got one gendarme killed. And it seems unlikely that this is because they can't. It's obviously some sort of informal, undeclared, unilateral truce. However arrests and dirty war by the states have not stopped, signal that Spain and France are not interested in talking.
Meanwhile, much as happened some ten years ago, diverse Basque independentist parties and organizations have been gathering forces. Many are opposed to violence and hence this informal truce may be rather directed to them than to the Spanish and French galleries.
However it is not totally impossible that there are some secret negotiations of some sort, however they must be, if any, very preliminary.
What fuels the conflict? Differences between the Spanish nationalist and Basque nationalist positions:
- Subject of sovereignity: is it "the Spanish people" or "the Basque people"? The latter, with barely 6% of the population has no chance whatsoever of imposing its will in the larger state, clearly dominated by the Castilian or Spanish ethnicity.
- Borders: is Navarre part of the Basque Country? The people of Navarre have not yet been asked on the matter, however the Spanish nationalist parties usually win the elections there.
- Language: the Spanish constitution imposes the Spanish (Castilian) language as obligatory to be known by every citizen, instead other languages like Basque are not and can only be used in official venues where it is regulated that way by lesser laws. For example, judges in the Basque Country do not need to speak Basque, while janitors usually must. In Navarre, the strange dissection of the territory, ensures that only in those areas where Basque is already dominant, the old language enjoys some minimal protection.
- Culture and education: which version of history should be taught to children one that emphasizes Spanish history or one that emphasizes Basque (and therefore Navarrese) history? Should the term Euskal Herria (Basque Country in the wide sense, a traditional term) be used or scrapped. Should the Basque banner be allowed or forbidden in Navarre? Which map should be used in weather forecasts? Have Western Basques the right to use the Navarrese symbols (after all they were once part of Navarre and only removed against their will)?
- Legislation and self-government: which should be the limits, if any, to Basque self-rule? Should judges be appointed by Spain or by Basque institutions? Should Spanish police and military be allowed to operate within the Basque borders without authorization of the Basque governments? Should Spanish laws apply at all in Basque territory? To which extent?
- Fascist inheritance: Spain has failed so far to review and amend the dark decades of fascist dictatorship, from which the current monarchy arose, granting the King and the Army the constitutional right to intervene in politics. Of the two major Spanish parties one, the Christian-Democrats, is not really different from the former Fascist party. The many crimes of the dictatorship have so far remained not just unpunished but also almost not investigated.