When a top aide to the mayor of San Sebastián was caught on film making death threats to soccer fans celebrating Spain’s Euro 2012 victory, the radical separatist coalition in power there, Bildu, forced him to resign in a move that proves that it is not willing to play with fire.
Josetxo Ibazeta was secretary to Mayor Juan Karlos Izagirre, as well as a former councilor for Batasuna, the outlawed political wing of the terrorist organization ETA, and a powerful influence over municipal affairs. But radical separatists know that the courts are watching their every move ever since Bildu was narrowly allowed to run in Basque elections in May 2011, despite widespread concern that the coalition might just be a cover for Batasuna to return to power after it was proscribed by the courts in 2003.
Aware that Bildu could face the same fate as Batasuna if red lines are crossed, the mayor of San Sebastián called an emergency press conference in which he “accepted the resignation” of his trusted aide, describing his behavior as “totally unacceptable.”
The events had taken place 10 days earlier, on July 1, when a few soccer fans were celebrating Spain’s win in the old part of the city, traditionally a feud of radical Basque separatists. Ibazeta, who was there, told the fans that “I’m going to take out my gun and shoot you twice” as he made the gesture of pointing and shooting with his hand. He also yelled out “Gora ETA militarra!” as a tribute to the bloodiest branch of the terrorist group. Finally, he started throwing plates from a nearby restaurant at the revelers, forcing them out of the area. A witness recorded the events on his cellphone and the images were published by the newspaper El Mundo, causing a scandal that prompted the resignation.
In a short letter to the mayor, Ibazeta writes: “I don’t want an isolated incident and the use made of the same to cause political damage to you, to the municipal government or to the institution that you preside.”
The High Court Attorney’s office will consider whether to prosecute Ibazeta for issuing threats and praising terrorism as a result of the incident. This is not the first time that the former Batasuna man has been involved in a scrape with the law. Ibazeta also faces charges for participating in the illegal occupation of an empty building by a group of youngsters which included his own son.
Opposition parties on the city council celebrated the resignation. Socialist spokesman Ernesto Gasco expressed joy at the fact that “finally, limits are being placed on the extortion and threats by some elected officials. ”Popular Party spokesman Ramón Gómez said that “a totalitarian cannot change into a democrat” and that “Mr Ibazeta has finally taken off his mask.”