Arnaldo Otegi, coordinator of EH Bildu, did not improvise last Monday, when in the morning he made a declaration of the Government’s pleasure with the recognition that the suffering of ETA victims It should not have occurred and only a few hours later, that same afternoon, he revealed in a ceremony with militants in Éibar that his strategy was “budgeting for prisoners”, which he would later deny when checking the effect of his words.
“He is under pressure,” say sources in the fight against terrorism consulted by ABC. On the one hand, the relatives of the imprisoned terrorists They demand that you keep the promise you made in 2016, when he was released, when he promised to take them to the Basque Country,
first, and then to release them; on the other, he knows that he has to continue supporting the Pedro Sánchez government, because the alternative is the Popular Party and he is well aware that with this formation in power he has no possibility of making concessions.
“It is a demonic balance -added the same sources-, because Arnaldo Otegi is fully aware that if he does not achieve progress in the prison theme, beyond the approaches that have been made so far, families can get on top of him ».
More than a half
It is not that there are going to be movements in that sense in the short term, because at the moment there are not other people with enough political weight who can overshadow it, but in some sectors its role is beginning to be questioned. “Above all,” add other sources, “prisoners who have not yet served their sentences in the Basque Country or Navarra and their families.” It should be remembered that today more than 55 percent of the 184 imprisoned ETA members are admitted to prisons in other autonomous communities, although it is also true that there are a good number of them that are in very close regions.
Prisoners are a potentially flammable issue on the nationalist left; in fact, the only split that is known in that world, which revolves around ATA, has a lot to do with the hardest inmates of the gang, who showed their rejection of the dissolution of ETA.
The last mobilization of inmates who follow this group was the 20-day hunger strike that the terrorist held last August. Iñaki Bilbao, alias Txikito -assassin of the socialist councilor of Orio Juan Priede and currently in the Topas (Salamanca) prison after being approached by Interior-, which forced his hospitalization. The objective of the protest, as ATA explained at the time, was “the demand for independence and socialism for the Basque working class and for Euskal Herria.”
The weight of this small group is small, but Arnaldo Otegi knows that he can gain weight if there are no concrete results in prison matters within a reasonable period of time. «Electoral support for the nationalist left stands at a maximum of 300,000 votes; if it is divided, its representation may fall ”, explain the sources.
«For the nationalist left, the support of the prisoners’ relatives is key because it makes them have a relevant social weight; they are the ones who manifest themselves every week, the ones who have a mobilization capacity that those of Otegi are losing», They add. “ETA, which was the military front of the self-styled Basque National Liberation Movement, the MLNV, has disappeared, but it continues, and within it the incarcerated are of capital importance,” explained the experts consulted.
One of the moments in which there were more reproaches from the prisoners and their environment was in 2019, after the agreement reached by the 47 lawyers of the ETA prison front, led by Arantza Zulueta and Jon Square, in the trial held at the National Court. These lawyers were the ones who maintained the internal discipline of the imprisoned ETA members and prevented them from taking advantage of individual prison benefits. The fact that they agreed with the Public Prosecutor’s Office in exchange for a reduction in penalties caused great discomfort among the inmates and their friends.
But the confrontations between the ‘official’ nationalist left and ATA are increasingly harsh, to the point that not long ago there was a fistfight in Lezo between a member of Otegi with a ‘rebel’, who reproached him for having ” promised things they weren’t keeping. «The division is evident; there are many who bet on communism; others advocate destroying the Kingdom of Spain, but also the ‘Basque Republic’, which they link to Otegi and repudiate before he is born … Sortu is going to hold a Congress to try to recover people. Anyway, it is a complicated situation for them.
Successor to Herrira
Most of the prisoners, who continue to move in orthodoxy, are controlled by Sare, an organization that looks like an NGO under the guardianship of Bildu. The sources consulted also explain that “in addition to asking for the rapprochement and freedom of the prisoners wrapped in the banner of human rights, it helps the relatives so that they can visit the inmates.” Ultimately, she is Herrira’s successor in supporting and controlling those in prison.
Your spokesperson is Joseba Azkarraga, former Basque Minister of Justice, and among their visible faces are Ane Muguruza, daughter of the deputy of Herri Batasuna Josu Muguruza assassinated in 1989 in Madrid by the extreme right; Edurne Brouard, daughter of the Batasuno leader assassinated 30 years ago by the GAL Santiago Brouard, or the former coordinator of Elkarri, Paul Ríos. Etxerat also collaborates with this ‘citizen network’ – as defined by its members – Etxerat, the association of “relatives and friends of Basque political prisoners, exiles and deportees”, as explained on its website.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism