The Spanish right's inability to acknowledge Otegi's gesture

2 min
Basque pro-independence leaders Arnaldo Otegi and Arkaitz Rodríguez

Wednesday will mark 10 years since ETA laid down its arms. The nightmare of terrorist violence came to an end after 864 deaths and more than 3,000 attacks. Five decades of pain, most of it in democracy. Five decades of harsh social and ideological fracture in the Basque Country. The process of deactivating the terrorist group was slow, with many ups and downs, including the State's dirty war through death squads. It took a long time, but finally the nationalist left took the step, with Arnaldo Otegi, from prison, as a key figure in giving up violence and adopting the peaceful and democratic way. This Monday, Otegi, coinciding with this tenth anniversary, wanted to solemnise the anniversary with a new gesture of recognition towards the victims, which is also a self-criticism of historical importance: "We feel their pain: it should never have taken place ". With these words, the historic Basque leader deepens the pro-independence Basque left mea culpa.

In this decade, Basque society, in peace, has advanced slowly, step by step, gesture by gesture, to put an end to the fratricism that fractured it. Otegi is once again a highlight of this reunion, from which, unfortunately, the Spanish nationalist right continues to exclude itself: the reaction of the PP, Cs and Vox to the words of the Basque nationalist leader is still too reminiscent of times long gone, times in which everything revolved around hatred and revenge, times of winners and losers, times of terror. Undoubtedly, with ETA's violence everyone lost, and it will still take years to heal the wounds. But it should not only be a question of time. Courageous and honest steps are also necessary. In this sense, some victims' relatives have shown much more greatness and generosity than the immaturity of so many partisan voices permanently installed in the warmongering dialectic, as if ETA had not disappeared.

In Catalonia we also suffered the scourge of Basque terrorism, with three dramatic milestones of tragic memory: the terrible attack on Hipercor in June 1987, the no less painful attack on the Civil Guard barracks in Vic in May 1991, and the assassination of Ernest Lluch in November 2000. In all three cases, Catalan society reacted united in a clamour for an end to violence. A pacifist clamour that honours it, and which fortunately has left its mark on us. A clamour, moreover, that resonated in the Basque Country, to the extent that it largely conditioned the evolution of the nationalist left. During the Basque Country's most violent years, it always looked enviously at the political, peaceful and democratic path of Catalan nationalism; now it is Catalonia that looks up to the reality of the Basque Country, where Basque independence, still focused on reconciliation and coexistence, has taken a long view to follow political and democratic paths. In Catalonia, non-violence has long been a widely shared pillar, also during all these years of the pro-independence process, which has now entered the difficult but essential path of dialogue and negotiation with the State.

ETA was a mistake. Its violence only brought more violence and much pain. It is essential to acknowledge this in order to move forward. And to acknowledge the gesture of those who acknowledge it, too.