I have been reading but not yet commenting on the new spat of political arrests in the Basque Country decreed by super-judge Baltasar Garzón in what the Spanish Interior Minister justified by claiming that the arrested were trying to re-found the forbidden party Batasuna, one of the largest ones in the Basque Country quite obviously.
Some nine members of this party, including the secretary general of the second largest labour union, LAB, were arrested two days ago under the anti-terrorist law and the law of political parties. The charges are not yet officially known as the arrested are being kept incommunicated in police dependences under the special laws that rule in Spain since... well, since always. The only information comes from the Interior Minister, who stated that it was an action to abort the reorganization of Batasuna, within the context of the Spanish Law of Political Parties and the recent EU sentence acknowledging that this initiative of banning parties is legitimate.
Among the arrested, were historical leaders of the Basque Nationalist Left, like Arnaldo Otegi and Pernando Barrena, the secretary general of workers' union LAB, Rafa Díez, and the daughter of the leader of the breakup faction Aralar, Patxi Zabaleta.
One of the few advantages of being split between two states is the fact that the law that is imposed at one side of the internally dividing border, does not apply necessarily at the other side. Hence Batasuna is still perfectly legal in the French state and has issued a public declaration protesting the arrests from Bayonne.
Other political parties protested that this was an action oriented to abort any chance of Batasuna heading towards a political solution of violence. Though in my opinion it is just empty blah-blah of rather marginal politicians who aim to scratch some of the votes that cannot anymore be delivered to their legitimate destinataries. But who knows?
My biggest worry anyhow is that, as they have been arrested in the offices of LAB (Patriotic Workers' Union), including the secretary general of this class organization, I can only imagine that this is nothing but the prelude of the illegalization of LAB, in the hope that it will pave the way for a formal "majority" of the Spanish Nationalist unions UGT and CC.OO., that so far has proved highly elusive. This would be yet another step into the legal dismantling (that is never the same as real dismantling) of the Basque grassroots socio-political networks.
Open letter by Alfonso Sastre to the Spanish judges
Alfonso Sastre is the most prominent theatre author in Spanish language still alive and recently was candidate to the European Parliament by the list Iniciativa Internacionalista. He was probably elected by popular vote but the poll was massively rigged so he could not become legally a representative. What follows is his public reaction to the new spat of political arrests (my translation).
Faced with the ongoing policial roundup, the signatary, Alfonso Sastre Salvador, natural from Madrid, 83 years old, Basque citizen since several decades ago, requests from you that urgently do all what is possible in order to deactivate the ongoing roundup of Basque citizens, and that these get their freedom restored. Also in this letter, he wants to expose what follows:
1. That he finds unbelievable that there is not among you some who are in radical disagreement - starting from the exercise of your activity of jurists, professionals of the Law - with measures like this one and do not feel ashamed that, in the name of Justice, Justice itself is attacked by means of persecution of pacific people, whose only "crime" is being left-leaning patriots and attempting to express themselves in the fields of politics and labour unionism. No one among you keeps, at least in his inner self, such a thought? I just cannot believe it.
2. That the legal existence of an abertzale (Basque patriotic) left, which does not "condemn" publicly the violence of ETA does not just imply a support for this kind of struggle and the subsequent attempt to extend it in time but that, on the contrary, this left bloc is necessary for the solution of the political conflict and, with it, for the end of this type of struggle (which is a very painful tragedy) and the desired arrival of peace, being, as I say, the legal existence of this political force nothing less than a conditio sine qua non for such a happy outcome. Otherwise, Basque patriotism is a legitimate idea, even if nowadays, and here there is a key of the conflict, is not legal, fact on which is founded and explained the violence we suffer.
For me, those who are applauding - enthusiastically in many cases - these arrests are not supporters of peace but actually prefer the existence of armed violence.
At least some of you, magistrate gentlemen, do what is possible for, by the moment, suspend the violence of these arrests that are exerted on people of peace, and, certainly, very patient ones themselves.