State broadcaster slammed for ETA slur during Pablo Iglesias interview

Podemos leader told he was “in luck” because Basque terrorists were released last week

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias during last week’s TVE interview.
Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias during last week’s TVE interview.

A news chief for Spanish state broadcaster TVE could lose his job over a controversial interview conducted last Friday with Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias.

The aggressive tone in which the interview was conducted has also drawn criticism against the broadcaster itself, which has long struggled against its reputation as a mouthpiece for the party in power.

While the entire conversation between Iglesias and La noche en 24 horas host Sergio Martín was tense, the climax came five minutes before the end.

“If you do an internet search for Pablo Iglesias you will find thousands of videos from the past, the present, the distant past...,” said Martín. “And there is one in which we saw Pablo Iglesias defending the release of ETA prisoners. So this week you’re in luck...”

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The taunt made reference to the fact that one of the bloodiest members of the Basque terrorist group, Santiago Arrospide Sarasola (aka Santi Potros), became a free man on Thursday after serving 27 years in French and Spanish prisons over terrorist attacks such as the 1987 Hipercor massacre in Barcelona, which left 21 dead and 45 wounded.

“It’s not a problem of being in luck, and nobody should play with the victims’ pain,” replied Iglesias, a media-savvy political science professor who became a celebrity through his appearances on TV debate shows before creating Podemos.

The comment about being in luck (“estar de enhorabuena” in Spanish) was immediately commented on by outraged viewers via social networking sites. Another Podemos leader, Juan Carlos Monedero, wrote on his Twitter account that: “You have to be real trash to tell an interviewee that he must be in luck because ETA members have been released from prison.”

Meanwhile, TVE’s News Council is considering putting in a request to have the director of the rolling news channel Canal 24 Horas removed from his post. “The way the question was framed violates TVE’s style guide and Information Statute, and it raises questions about the station’s credibility,” said council chairman Alejandro Caballero. “While it might be interesting to know Pablo Iglesias’ opinion on the issue, the way the question was asked was out of place.”

Historic ETA leader Santiago Arrospide Sarasola, aka "Santi Potros," walked out of Villena prison on Thursday after serving 27 years.
Historic ETA leader Santiago Arrospide Sarasola, aka "Santi Potros," walked out of Villena prison on Thursday after serving 27 years.Morell (EFE)

Sergio Martín could not be reached for comment.

Podemos, a new party that is threatening to break the monopoly on power held by the ruling Popular Party (PP) and the Socialists (PSOE) since the return of democracy in Spain, has been under growing public scrutiny for signs of weakness.

After coming out of nowhere and securing five seats in the European Parliament in May, Podemos began proposing solutions for Spain’s economic crisis that included defaulting on sovereign debt.

It also emerged that its leaders had worked for the Hugo Chávez regime in Venezuela and professed admiration for his brand of politics.

This immediately drew accusations of populism and radical leftist sympathies against a party that has promised to sweep “the caste” off the map and give Spanish politics a fresh start after the 2015 general elections, which it intends to win.

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