21 March 2012

Basque Info 6th-19th March

In this issue
 ETA calls on French Government to initiate dialogue
 Women take to the streets for their rights
 Amnesty International criticizes Spanish abuses against Basques
 Recognition for the northern Basque Country on the agenda
 MEP’s support conflict resolution

ETA calls on French Government to initiate dialogue

ETA recently sent a statement to the French news agency AFP. Four months have passed since ETA declared the definitive cessation of its armed activity and the call on the French Government to open up a direct dialogue about the consequences of the conflict. The organization wishes to make their reflections known to French society.

In the statement they remarked on the opportunity opened to solve the long conflict and to build a just and lasting peace. For that they believe that the French government has to assume its responsibilities and assume that the “Basque problem” is also their problem. They stated that the French state denies political recognition to the Basque provinces under its administration.

They also mentioned the implication of the dirty war against Basque militants and the French Government’s alliance with the Spanish state in the repressive strategy against the Basque resistance. The armed organization believes that in these new times this strategy is senseless and they call on the French Government to leave it aside and take steps towards the definitive resolution of the conflict.

They commented on the value of the Internation Declaration for conflict Resolution of Aiete, signed by well-know international personalities last October, as the roadmap for the solution. ETA responded in a positive way to that declaration, showing their willingness to establish direct dialogue with the French and Spanish states to deal with the consequences of the conflict.

ETA hope that the French state responds positively to this approach and as soon as possible begins a direct dialogue with ETA as a way to deal with the consequences of the conflict in territory under French administration. This is the path for achieving a true and lasting peace.

Finally ETA acknowledges and expresses gratitude to all those in the French state who have expressed their solidarity and support for the struggle in the Basque Country.

The French Government tried to play down the importance of this communiqué and repeated their intention to collaborate with the Spanish authorities, trying to make it seem as if it’s a Spanish problem only, without any French state responsibility in the conflict.

Women take to the streets for their rights

Thursday 8th March marked Internation Women’s Day and as with every year the Basque feminist movement organised demonstrations across the country. Thousands of people, mainly women, took to the streets of most towns to demand equality for women and to denounce the devastating effects of the capitalist crisis. They also remembered the 99 female Basque political prisoners.

AI critizices Spainish abuses against Basques

An Amnesty International delegation lead by its General Secretary Salil Shetty visited Spain last week and met with government officials, judiciary and the main political parties.

At the end of the series of meetings they spoke to the press. There Mr. Shetty denounced the serious abuses committed by the police forces in their fight against ETA, critizised the banning of Sortu (Basque Pro-Independence Left’s party), demanded the repatriation of Basque politial prisoners and asked for a more flexible approach and open mind to address the conflict resolution.

According to AI there is a new scenario open after ETA’s decision last October to end the armed campaign and therefore full advantage should be taken in order to promote human rights without leaving any space open to impunity for those carryin out abuses.

Mr Shetty said he was disappointed by the Spanish Government’s current position.

Recognition for the northern Basque Country on the agenda

Over recent weeks the need for Basque recognition in the form of some sort of local government institution has toppped the political agenda in the north of the Basque Country. First it was Sarkozy’s visit, then the protest blockade of main roads and now the Basque pro-independence left parties asked the regional council of elected representatives to continue with their work but stated that in the end it should be put to the people in referendum to decide about kind of institution they want.

The nationalist parties said that an assembly elected by the people and with wide powers should be put in place to organise the three Basque northern provinces under French administration. They also asked for official recognition of the Basque language, Euskara.

Despite the majority Basque support for recognition Paris has historically treated those demands with contempt.

MEPs support conflict resolution

At a press conference held last week in Brussels, 27 MEP’s showed their support for the conclusions of the International Conference for Conflict Resolution organised last October in the Aiete Palace of Donostia-San Sebastian. They asked that the European institutions take part in the process and announced initiatives for the near future.

Basque Info 22nd February – 5th March

• The Abertzale Left takes another step on the path of a definitive resolution of the conflict

• Solidarity with the Basque Country around the world

The Abertzale Left takes another step on the path of a definitive resolution of the conflict

In a mass public event the Abertzale (pro-independence) Left presented a document which is another step in the consolidation of the new political scenario opened in the Basque Country after the definitive cessation of armed activity by ETA. The document titled “Solution is Blowing in the Wind” gives clear direction for the transition of a scenario of violence, to a true and lasting peace.

With the presentation of this document and its contents, the Abertzale Left takes a new unilateral step in its commitment to reaching a scenario of a true and lasting peace.

In the first part of the document, the Abertzale Left proposes that, as has happened in other conflicts throughout the world, a Transitional Justice will be necessary which will establish a number of political and legal measures that will help develop a democratic process.

Another important proposal covered in the document is the creation of a Truth Commission of an international and independent nature, politically impartial, with open participation and without any exclusion. The Basque Country needs to know the truth, the whole truth about the political conflict and its legacy. This will undoubtedly contribute to a lasting peace and reconciliation. The Abertzale Left is committed to supporting the creation of this commission.

They spoke clearly about the painful consequences that the violent expressions connected to the conflict have caused. They affirm that in order to reach peace and justice it will be necessary to vent all this pain. The Abertzale left recognizes all the pain and suffering that the different components of the conflict have caused in the Basque Country. At this point they make self-criticism and “recognizes that through its declarations or acts it may have projected an image of insensitivity towards the pain caused by the actions of ETA. In response, it regrets the pain that it may have unwillingly added with its political position.”

In this context the Abertzale Left considers that “the states of Spain and France must acknowledge the pain caused to the Basque Country and to all the thousands of men and women in this country that have suffered” their actions.

In the last part of the text the Abertzale Left remarks on the value of dialogue and democratic agreement as a way of resolution and a guarantee of the situation not evolving again. For that, they propose a dialogue based on the Mitchell Principles and call on other Basque political formations to make these principals their own.

A reflection on the importance of the act was the presence of Alex Maskey representing Irish Sinn Féin and Kopeng Obed Bapela, Deputy Minister of the South African government and representing the African National Congress. Both spoke in the act and showed their support for the path taken by the Abertzale Left and the process of resolving the conflict. Given their experience in conflict resolution in their own countries; they have all forged ahead with the objective of creating a peaceful settlement.

They admitted that the road will be full of difficulties but they urged caution, and to continue working to achieve a scenario of peace and justice.

Solidarity with the Basque Country around the world

Numerous acts took place during the 6th International Week of Solidarity with the Basque Country, organized together with the Basque pro-independence internationalist organization Askapena and the collective of Friends of the Basque Country – Euskal Herriaren Lagunak (EHL).

Many and various events were organized in different places by the solidarity committees in the past week. In Berlin, Milan, Dublin, Paris, London, Mexico City, Barcelona, Madrid, Argentina, Belfast, Bern, Edinburgh amongst others; different activities took place with thousands of people participating. Concerts, demonstrations, popular meals, all have served for those interested in the current situation of the Basque Country and to show solidarity with their struggle.

Other news in brief:

 Last Saturday thousands of people took part in the annual march for justice for the five workers murdered by the Spanish police in Gasteiz-Vitoria on the 3rd March 1976. At the end of the march the Basque-Spanish police charged against the youth who had sat on the road: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pReXFZHTjoM

 Last weekend more than 500 women took part in the Basque pro-independence women's 5th Feminist Encounter organized by Bilgune Feminista in the small town of Leitza. During the three days' meetings they discussed about the new political time in the Basque Country and the role feminism should play. Guest speakers came from Ireland, El Salvador and Palestine. They also organised workshops on sexuality, self-defense, new economic and social feminist models, prisoners, food sovereignty, prostitution...

 More than 20,000 people took part in a national demonstration organised by the Basque pro-independence trade unions last Saturday in Bilbao against the cuts and in favor of social rights. This was a great display of strength ahead the general strike these same trade unions have called on the 29th March.

 Iñaki Igerategi and Inaxio Otaño who were arrested two weeks ago were sent to jail after being held incommunicado for three days by the Spanish police. When they were finally taken before the judge they told him they had been constantly beaten, threatened, deprived from sleep, drugged and sexually abused.

 Two Basque political refugees were arrested in separate French police operations in the northern Basque Country over the past few days. Both are now fighting the European Arrest Warrant to prevent extradition to Spain. The arrests have been denounced by many parties as yet another attack on the democratic process.

 1,200 people blocked northern Basque roads in nine different places last Saturday to demand Basque recognition and the right to have their own institutions. The northern Basque Country is included within the French Béarn department.

 Last week Basque pro-independence supporters confronted and disrupted French Prime Minister Sarkozy during an election campaign visit to the northern Basque Country (under French administration): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KZjCRm94Hs&feature=related and http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=uOf8H8N6au8#!
Sarkozy had to seek refuge in a café to escape from the jeering.

Nevertheless answering a journalist, Sarkozy said, “I’ve always considered bring prisoners closer to their places of origin to be possible and desirable.” Although he qualified the possibility of bringing them closer, there was no doubt that it would be a positive measure.

 Gara newspaper published an interesting interview last Sunday with the leader of the Abertzale Left Pernando Barrena. In it he spoke of the political events of the last few months. The Declaration of Aiete, the Declaration of the Kursaal, etc. Without a doubt an extensive and interesting interview in which many of the keys to the current political scene were mentioned.

 The American Association of Jurists (AAJ) presented in the UN Council on Human Rights a declaration about Basque political prisoners in which they demanded that the dispersal policy and the situations of isolation end and that prisoners who suffer serious illnesses be freed, citing the specific cases of Txus Martin and Iñaki Erro.