Basque nationalist leader apologises to victims of ETA: "We feel your pain. It should never have happened"

Arnaldo Otegi commemorates tenth anniversary of peace conference which led to the end of violence

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Otegi and Arkaitz Rodriguez today at the palu de Aiete

San SebastianTen years have passed since ETA announced its dissolution and the distance has allowed the Basque pro-independence left to gain perspective. This Monday, Arnaldo Otegi, one of the figureheads of the movement, has been clearer than he had been ever been in his message to the victims of the terrorist group: "We want to convey our sorrow and pain for their suffering. We feel their pain and from this sincere feeling we affirm that it should never have happened. No one can be satisfied that all that happened, nor that it went on for so long. We should have been able to get to Aiete earlier," he stressed. On October 17, 2011, in the Palace of Aiete, in San Sebastian, all Basque parties (except the PP), business associations, trade unions and international peace leaders met to agree on a statement urging the end of ETA, which would announce the definitive end of violence three days later.

Otegi acknowledged that "unfortunately, the past has no remedy" and, therefore, nothing they say now "can undo the damage caused". "But we are convinced that it is at least possible to alleviate it through respect, consideration and memory. We want to tell them from the bottom of our hearts that we are very sorry for their suffering and we commit ourselves to try to mitigate it to the best of our ability. You will always find us ready to do so," he said in a message delivered precisely from the Palace of Aiete.

It is not the first gesture Otegi has made in this direction. In 2012, in a book he published from prison, he expressed his "most sincere apologies" to the relatives of the victims of ETA if he, from his position as spokesman for the Basque pro-independence left, had contributed to their "pain, suffering or humiliation". "I am sorry from the bottom of my heart", he wrote. In the last decade it has been common to hear representatives of the nationalist left, who are now mostly part of EH Bildu, lament the suffering of the victims of ETA. In 2017, already out of prison, Otegi visited Catalonia on the anniversary of the Hipercor bombing (21 people killed on June 19, 1987), to denounce that that "should never have happened" and to state that Bildu was "with the pain of the victims and the people of Catalonia". What remains difficult, though, is an outright condemnation of terrorism.

Various reactions

Precisely the condemnation of the actions of the terrorist group is one of the issues that remains unresolved, at least for some of the victims' families. Mari Mar Blanco, the sister of Miguel Ángel Blanco, the PP councillor assassinated in 1997, expressed herself along these lines after listening to Otegi's words.