The Victims of Terrorism Association and the regional Popular Party (PP) in the Basque Country have reacted with anger to a compromise that handed Jone Artola — a member of prisoners' association Etxerat — a prominent role in the annual Aste Nagusia celebrations in Bilbao. Artola was the founder of the festival comparsa Txorri Barrote, which was sanctioned in 2010 for displaying photos of ETA inmates.
Artola had originally been chosen by the week-long festival's organizing committee, Biboko Konpartsak, to launch the txupinazo, a rocket that marks the official start of the celebrations. But after the PP and victims associations launched a legal challenge, Artola was removed from the program by judicial decree, with regional councilor for public events Itziar Urtasun lighting the touchpaper instead.
However, after negotiations that were concluded just two hours before the event, Artola was present on the balcony of the Arriaga Theater during the inauguration of Aste Nagusia on Saturday, accompanied by Urtasun and the ceremonial town crier, the Athletic Bilbao women's team captain Iraia Iturregi.
About an hour after the txupinazo was fired by Urtasun, Artola launched her own firework in the same place, wearing the traditional uniform of the txupinera.
The abertzale left, which groups together radical nationalist political parties — including Bildu, seen as the heir to ETA's outlawed political wing, Batasuna — "is laughing in the face of legality," said the Victims of Terrorism Association (AVT).
PP regional spokeswoman Cristina Ruiz said the presence of Artola at the official ceremony was "a joke."
Leopoldo Barreda, a regional PP deputy, said the judicial resolution had turned the act into a "tribute to Jone Artola," and accused the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), which governs Bilbao with an absolute majority, of connivance with "the world of Bildu."
The AVT renewed its call on Sunday for parties such as Bildu and the abertzale Amaiur coalition to be banned. "There are enough acts of glorifying and sympathising with terrorism to start a process of illegalizing these parties, which support and organize these gestures. It is a mockery toward all Spaniards," said AVT president Ángeles Pedraza.
Bildu, meanwhile, criticized the PP "from Madrid" and asked why Artola is eligible to "be elected as lehendakari," or regional premier, but not as the txupinera. "The Bilbao PP had no problem with the choice until now," said Bildu spokesman Aitziber Ibaibarriga, who also attacked the PNV for starting the celebrations "as though nothing had happened."
Artola was elected txupinera by the festival associations that traditionally organize the various facets of Aste Nagusia, which are grouped together by Biboko Konpartsak.