Arnaldo Otegi: There is no peace process, because the state is afraid of peace

| 2013/12/19 | Comments (0)
original interview in La Jornada Mexican newspaper Interview with Arnaldo Otegi, leader of the Abertzale Left imprisoned for his political activity, published in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada. Arnaldo Otegi is one of the most charismatic leaders of Basque independentism. He is imprisoned since 2009 in the Logroño prison (La Rioja). He maintains a great political and social influence on a part of Basque society, who recognizes him as one of the main people responsible for the historic change in strategy that the Abertzale Left took to make possible the new political time in the Basque Country. Otegi, 55 years old, was arrested in October of 2009 together with ten other militants of the pro-independence left for the supposed crime of reconstituting the political apparatus of the banned Batasuna. In September of 2011 the Spanish National Court condemned him to ten years in prison; months later the Supreme Court reviewed and lowered the sentence to six and a half years. If he serves the whole sentence he will be released in April of 2016. What is your opinion about the sentence of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg? The sentence restores the respect for human rights in front of the capriciousness and the exceptionality of the penitentiary policy that is applied to Basque independentists. I sincerely believe that in that way such as the endorsement that this same court gave to the policy of banning Basque independentism gave us (and that is how we understood it) an unequivocal sign that while the armed activity of ETA persisted, the international community would support the restrictive policies with respect to certain fundamental liberties, such as the right to association, etcetera. On this occasion they sent another unequivocal sign to the governments of Spain and France: after the unilateral cease of violence by ETA the international community doesn’t endorse the policies of exception against our people. Bildu has said that they are going to avoid any situation that hurts the feelings of the victims. Do you coincide with this posture? Do you think it is better to try for reconciliation among the parts? In the interview-book “Tiempo de luces” (Time of Lights) I clearly manifested my opinion about this subject, in the sense that in the way that the solution to the problem of hundreds of Basque prisoners passes for our freedom, this must take place with a responsible will and commitment to not add a single drop of more suffering to any victim of the conflict. I am, therefore, in agreement with the position expressed by Bildu. The governing party went to a demonstration called for by the AVT (Association of Terrorist Victims) against the sentence from Strasbourg. There they asked, among other things, for Spain to leave the European Convention of Human Rights. What is your opinion? The Popular Party (PP) is today a hostage to a perverse strategy that they fed during the peace process by Mr. (the former head of the government, the socialist Jose Luis) Zapatero. Then the PP exploited the pain of the victims and in that way converted them into a powerful lobby which today has become indignant against those who created and fed them with lies, falsehoods and manipulations. Their participation in this demonstration doesn’t have anything to do with respect for the victims, their only objective is to try and reestablish and maintain their weak internal balance. What is your current situation in prison? My comrades and I continue fulfilling the sentence that they imposed on us and we continue to wait for the pronouncement of the Constitutional Court. And I assure you that they will pronounce against our freedom. They simply don’t forgive us for our decided commitment to peace. They have prohibited visits apart from the family. To what do you attribute this measure of exception? To be accurate I’ll say that what they have prohibited are the visits that up to a few months ago and with an extraordinary character they had conceded me with trade union leaders, politicians, members of the European Parliament, etc… About the motives I think there is one which is fundamental: How to deny the existence of political prisoners in the Spanish state if to the Logroño prison (among others) are coming visitors from trade unions, parliamentarians, the international press, etc.? Trying to hide the problems is an old strategy for all of those who are afraid of reality. Today it is truer than ever that capitalism, imperialism and authoritarianism need to permanently use a lie to try to maintain drugged for the longest time the largest number of people. Happily, I believe that the current crisis is making their great lies ever more visible. What news do you receive in prison about the current situation of the peace process? I follow very closely the political, social and economic events of my people, evidently with the difficulties that prison generates. But prison, even though they try, can’t limit our capacity for thought, although they can with our movements. As far as the first, I try together with my comrades to continue contributing analysis and proposals to the comrades on the outside. It seems that the majority agrees that the peace process is irreversible, but there also exists the sensation that there aren’t any big advances, do you agree with this assessment? I wish to be extremely precise at the time of using certain expressions to avoid misunderstandings when analysing the current situation. In the first place I want to make clear a reflection that after four years in prison and two years after the declaration by ETA, I would dare to submit it as definitive: the Spanish government has no interest in peace, they don’t desire it and they yearn for the previous scenario where the existence of armed violence from ETA permitted them to brandish the necessary interior enemy to cover up their profound anti-democratic, anti-social and authoritarian character. The disappearance of armed violence by ETA generates a serious problem for them, in the measure that there now doesn’t exist an excuse to take on a real debate that isn’t other than the right to self-determination of the Basque Country. To have favoured this scenario is the real crime for which they have us in prison. Therefore, there doesn’t exist a peace process, because the state is afraid of peace, that can sound harsh, but this is the reality. For that they deny and will deny that any advances are made in the areas where their competition is necessary (prisoners,…) because they need and yearn for the previous scenario and now they try to build it even if in a virtual way; now their new slogan is that ETA continues to exist. If we don’t understand this position of the state, we won’t get our analysis right and the procedure to follow that isn’t other than that which gave origin to the change in strategy; we have to continue advancing in a unilateral manner independently of what the state asks, says and does. Do you believe that it is true that the ceasefire by ETA is irreversible and definitive? Yes, it’s irreversible and definitive. When do you think that the disarming of ETA can be carried out? I don’t dispose of any necessary information to put forward a date in that respect. In any case, the disarming must form a part of the agenda of the consequences of the conflict and must be carried out with the implication of the different parts involved. What changes have you gone through, for good and bad, after this long time in prison? Well, I’ll tell you at this point adding all my stays in prison, I’ve completed 11 years and am about to complete 12. I am a profoundly optimistic man, maybe a worried optimist. So I don’t think that I have sincerely experienced bad changes; as far as the good I’ll tell you that in these last four years my comrades and I have reaffirmed our decisive commitment for the peaceful and democratic ways that we make. We know that the state isn’t interested and is uncomfortable in this scenario and four years later this has become evident. Also, and for good, I’ll say that these for years of legal kidnapping has made us more in favour of independence, more socialist, more revolutionary, more internationalist, more in solidarity, more Basque, more tolerant, better formed and better people. So definitively the Spanish way of reinsertion definitively doesn’t work. What do you think about the process that is open now in Catalonia with the convocation of a referendum on self-determination for November 9th, 2014. The situation in Catalonia makes clear the truth and veracity of the analysis that we have been making since the process of Lizarra-Garazi (which began in 1998), in the sense that the territorial and political model that came out of the Spanish transition is happily and definitely exhausted… Without a tactical or strategic return. Now only two possible scenarios are open: the most realistic is that which makes us foresee a recentralization of the state; and that which we consider better, but highly improbable, of a really democratic and constitutive process in which they recognise the right to self-determination for Basques, Catalans, Galicians. In logic and in a correct perspective the Catalans have concluded that this second scenario isn’t possible and therefore they must advance unilaterally towards independence… In my opinion we Basques must, with our own roadmap, without hurry, but without a pause, accompany them on this path.

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Category: english

About arnaldo: Arnaldo Otegi Mondragon 1958ko uztailaren 6an Elgoibarren (Gipuzkoa) jaiotako politikari abertzale eta marxista. Arnaldo Otegi Mondragon (Elgóibar, 6 de julio de 1958) es un político de ideología independentista vasca y marxista. Arnaldo Otegi Mondragón (born 6 July 1958) is a Basque politician and spokesman for the Abertzale Basque separatist party Batasuna. In October 2009 he was arrested again for attempting to put Batasuna back together. Arnaldo Otegi est un politique basque, militant indépendantiste basque. Il est le porte-parole de Batasuna. (6 juillet 1958 à Elgoibar). View author profile.

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