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OPINION
Text in which the author defends ideas and reaches conclusions based on his / her interpretation of facts and data

A Basque tale

Being able to walk around without fear of a bullet in the back of the head is welcome, but things are still far from normal since the ETA ceasefire

Jorge M. Reverte

ETA, the Basque terrorist organization that former Prime Minister Aznar once tried to butter up by calling it the Basque Liberation Movement, has stopped killing people. For the time being.

But have things really changed much? Being able to walk around without fear of a bullet in the back of the head is welcome, but things are still far from normal. You don't have far to search: it is enough to get out of the big cities and go to medium-size towns to feel it. Get out of Bilbao, San Sebastián or Vitoria. Take a walk in Mondragón or Hernani. As if in appeal to sicko tourism, the streets are full of posters bearing the faces of killers, demanding that these gudaris (Basque soldiers) be set free. At festivals there are stands where you are advised not to advertise your Spanishness. And as the always abundant drinks go down the throat, insults emerge from the mouth against persons who, despite behaving quite normally, arouse suspicions that they might belong to the imperial world of the Spanish colonial oppressor.

All this, aggravated with an important charge of "moral authority:" the peace process is now stagnant, because the government is taking no forward steps. Prison policy has not been modified since ETA announced an end to violence. The thugs and killers enjoy political representation. Many municipal councilors, many regional deputies, many mayors. And in all of them, the same behavior and the same line of talk: if the Spanish government fails to meet the Basques halfway, the process will never be complete.

What process? They are referring, of course, to the process that they themselves, with a well-paid court of international mediators also chosen by themselves, have sought to impose. The message is simple: ETA has taken a step. The government must respond with another, which is prison policy.

We only know that there are terrorist militants who are on the loose, armed with pistols, in the South of France

Why? Well, we don't know. We only know that there are terrorist militants who are on the loose, armed with pistols, in the South of France. With less and less money to keep up their unassuming style of life, but on the loose and armed. What for? Nor is this explained. Chief mediator Brian Currin warns of possible "splits." This means that some wacko may decide to kill on his own account. They have stopped killing, but they are out there. And their court of hooligans supports and finances them. Up to this point the thing is clear. We have won a part of the battle, but a latent threat persists against the democrats (the Spanish, don't forget).

What hurts most is that there are demands from part of that sector, that of the democrats, for actions to balance the gesture of ETA. According to these voices, some of them in the PSE Basque Socialists, the prisoners should be shifted closer to the Basque Country, parole more freely granted, sentences shortened, so that the process can go ahead. But, what process? Well, the process that ETA designed, that Bildu and the subculture of violence supported, and that the mediators proposed to manage. A bandwagon onto which "peacemakers" such as Arnaldo Otegi and Jesús Eguiguren have climbed, sending small girls to place wreaths of flowers in the name of reconciliation and love.

A process that proposes to cancel a democracy's prison sentences imposed on the killers of children, of civil guards, of defenseless municipal councilors, of policemen who were doing their duty; a process that prefers to keep the killers in reserve as a bargaining chip, and the victims gagged; a process with a fantasy tale built around the "oppression" of a country and the "mistakes" committed by young men - impetuous, xenophobic, totalitarian and devoid of scruples.

It is tempting to yield to the weakness caused by weariness, after so many years of fear. What cannot be allowed to happen, is that the fantasy tale be passed on to new generations. It has to be clear who were the killers, and who the oppressed.

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