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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Latest developments in the fragile Basque process

I'm not even going to call it "peace process" jet, just "process". Because the news are not really hopeful in general.

After rumors on the bilateralness of the truce, the Spanish government decided to dismiss these by the path of action and jailed a number of Basque politicians diffusely accused of belonging to the "all is ETA" conspiracy theory that prevails in Madrid since some 12 years ago. In effect they are accused to belonging to Ekin, a ghostly political avant-guard organization that would lead the similarly ghostly KAS bloc, including the Basque Nationalist Left, ETA and a host of other organizations. The KAS (Patriotic Socialist Coordination) bloc did exist in the 80s and 70s but it's not clear it does exist anymore nor that it ever included ETA at all and, in any case, it should be the same as the Basque Nationalist Left political movement (now illegal but still very real). No evidence of the existence of Ekin now or in the past exists (just police reports).

All the arrested denounced tortures, triggering some protests and, rather unusually, a pre-trial. All them been jailed "preventively".

But the most important meaning is to say, not just to ETA, but to all those hopeful of some kind of solution in the short run, who are most in the Basque Country (not so many in Spain it seems), that the State of Spain is not accepting the good will signals from the armed group.

It is also and foremost a message to the Spanish Right that the government is not renouncing to the repressive road to peace, a road that most here would consider impossible or even undesirable.

We are therefore witnessing, I understand, a sign of weakness of the Spanish socialdemocrats, who, the same as other "liberal left" parties elsewhere appear only to be able to govern under the ominous shadow of the right, specially the belligerant Reganist quasi-fascist far-right. This phenomenon is known as "violin government": supported by the left but effectively played by the right.

In this sense, ETA has now issued a new communication, which is published by Gara today but only in the print edition it seems.

The armed group responds in this communication to the Brussels Declaration issued by a number of senior public figures from South Africa, Ireland and Britain and declares to assume its part of responsability in this. The Brussels Declaration reads:

Statement by International Leaders in Conflict Resolution and Peace Processes

We, the undersigned, welcome and commend the proposed steps and new public commitment of the Basque Pro-independence [Movement] (Abertzale Left) to "exclusively political and democratic" means and a "total absence of violence" to attain its political goals. Fully carried out, this commitment can be a major step in ending the last remaining conflict in Europe. We note the expectation that the coming months may present a situation where the commitment to peaceful, democratic and no-violent means becomes an irreversible reality. To that end, we appeal to ETA to support this commitment by declaring a permanent, fully verified ceasefire. Such a declaration appropriately responded to by [Spanish] Government would permit new political and democratic efforts to advance, differences to be resolved and lasting peace attained.


-Nelson Mandela Foundation
-Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Peace Nobel Prize. South Africa).
-Frederik Willem de Klerk (Peace Nobel Prize. Former South African President).
-Mary Robinson (Former Irish President).
-John Hume (Peace Nobel Prize. Took part in the Good Friday Accord for Ireland).
-Albert Reynolds (Former Irish Prime Minister).
-Jonathan Powell (Chief of Cabinet form Tony Blair).
-Nuala 0'Loan (First Police Ombud in North Ireland).

The wording chosen by ETA seems subtle but I am not in condition to judge it until I buy the newspaper (if I do), as it doesn't seem that Gara is publishing it integrally online this time. The online article quotes the sentence: disposition to study jointly the steps needed by the democratic process, included the compromises to be adopted by ETA.

ETA hence seems to emphasize the democratic process of resolution (i.e. eventual self-determination) and seems to condition any permanent demilitarization steps to advance in the negotiation process. Nothing new really but I would not have expected anything else either. Meh, it's been more than 40 years now! And the last time they already issued a "permanent" declaration of ceasefire, what in the end lasted "only" one year. So issuing another would be futile rhetoric.

You may agree or not with what ETA says or does, but that is exactly what has been going on for the last 40-plus years. All my life. On one side there is a Spanish nationalist (Jacobin/Post-Fascist) state that has as principle the territorial integrity of the remaining state (after losing the Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium and most of Italy, most of America, Philippines, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, West Sahara, etc.) as "sacred" and on the other there is this armed group and akin political movement saying that they do not settle for anything but the right of self-determination and sovereignty of the Basque People. They have been bumping heads forever (ETA is just the latest symptom, we can easily go back through the centuries to the Bagaudae with almost no stop in the struggle) and it does not seem likely they will suddenly find any kind of agreement possible.

The case of Ireland shows us that other possibilities do exist but a very different thing is to actually implement them, specially as the approach of Britain is generally less dogmatic than those of Jacobin Latin European states, derived ultimately from French Absolutism.

ETA says: if there is democratic will, it is possible to solve the conflict now and here.

It also attributes itself, with mariner language, the bravery of relaunching the opportunity for peace:

Before the close-mindedness of Spain and France, ETA has launched again the ship of opportunity for the democratic solution of the conflict. And it has taken the first decision without throwing the anchor, ready to sail into deeper waters.

They look as reference anyhow not only to Ireland but also to Central and Eastern Europe, where many new states have formed recently, as well as to Greenland and Scotland, where self-determination processes are ongoing with full normality.

They also make an appeal to international institutions and agents to impel the peace process: a democratic process that provides a permanent, just and democratic solution to a centuries old political conflict.

ETA confirms that it has been willingly for six full months without committing any attack. And complains that the various Spanish governments have wasted all opportunities for peace so far.

Source: Gara[es]. More briefly also at BBC[en].

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