In this issue:
The Basque pro-independence trade unions, with the majority representation in the Basque Country, organised for a general strike on March 29th against the new labour reform introduced by the Spanish government and for sovereignty. Soon after, the Galician joint trade unions called a general strike for the same day and then it snowballed across the Spanish state so that even the collaborationist unions of CCOO and UGT had to back the strike.
The strike was a spectacular success in the Basque Country with only minimal emergency services running. Even the Cortes Ingles shopping centres, often remaining open during strikes, closed and large demonstrations filled southern Basque towns.
Police repression was evident however during the strike and afterwards with arrests of activists. In Gasteiz/ Vitoria a young man was shot in the head at close range with a rubber projectile by Basque police and rushed to hospital – fortunately Xuban Nafarrate survived and is back with his family.
Thousands celebrated Aberri Eguna, Basque National Day by calling for national independence in a demonstration in Iruñea/ Pamplona. The demonstration was led by the banner carried by members of Independentistak (grassroots network for the independence of the Basque Country), together with representatives of various political groups. Behind them came thousands and thousands of independentists with Basque flags, flags of Navarre and the black eagle flag. Other internationalists also with their flags came from other places: the Sahara, Palestine, Galicia, Castille, and Catalonia.
The demonstrators remembered two specific moments in the history of the Basque Country: that 500 years that have passed since Castilian troops conquered the independent Basque Kingdom of Navarre, the and the 75th anniversary of when civilian urban centres were bombed by Francoist planes, the worst tragedy being Guernica.
Another powerful demonstration of the Basque wish for independence was a symbolic trek through bad weather by hundreds of young Basques from Sara to Lesaka. The trek crossed the border dividing their country between the Spanish and French state. The weekend also included debates, games, dinner and concerts.
Basque society demonstrates in solidarity with political prisoners while Spanish state turns the screw on them
27,000 people, according to a count by the pro-Independence Left daily newspaper Gara, marched again in Bilbao to support Basque political prisoners and to demand a democratic solution to the political problem in the Basque Country. Representatives of different political, trade union and social agencies participated and shared the lead banner with former prisoners. Relatives of prisoners who had their sentences extended to virtual life imprisonment by the “Parot Doctrine” (their are 80 of these) also marched at the front. Part of the purpose of the march was to protest the decision earlier this month of the Spanish Constitutional Court to uphold the doctrine.
In a separate development, the prisoners’ collective has been reviewing their organisation and representation and they gave interviews to both Gara and Berria to explain their work and their objectives. Mikel Albisu, Marixol Iparragirre, and Lorentxa Gimon will be the representatives for the prisoners in French prisons and Jon Olarra, Xabier Alegria and Anabel Egues in the Spanish ones.
They denounced the dispersion policy of both states and the burden that places on relatives (there were three serious crashes this month on the long journeys to visit prisoners). They denounced also the use of the Parot Doctrine, the retention of seriously ill prisoners and in general the use of prisoners as hostages by the states. They also stated that they have been reviewing the political situation and, while they are hopeful, called for caution.
During April the manifesto of Madrid-Donostia Peace and Democracy for the Basque Country was launched. It has been signed by more than 500 academics, journalists, politicians, trade union members, lawyers, artists and social movement activists throughout the Spanish state but in particular who are based in Madrid.
The signatories of the manifesto approved of ETA’s declaration of an end to armed activity and called on the Spanish government to take stop reciprocal steps, including an end to the disperson of political prisoners, the legalisation of the Abertzale Left political party Sortu and to enter into dialogue with ETA.
The reaction of the Secretary of State for Security of the PP government, has been to say that “to ask the Executive to open a dialogue with ETA must also be understood as coercion on the part of the signers.”
Not long after the case of the young man shot in the head with a rubber projectile by Basque police during the general strike, another was shot in the same way and died. According to witnesses, the Bilbao Athletic fan Iñigo Cabacas was watching his team play Schalke in a cul-de-sac leisure area in Bilbao, where there is an herriko taberna (People’s Bar) and others. Then three van loads of the Ertzaintza (Basque Autonomous Region police) arrived and, at a maximum distance of 20 metres, fired rubber projectiles at people watching the game on TV screens. According to operational procedures, the minimum distance for firing these projectiles at people should be fifty metres.
Almost immediately afterwards, the pro-Spanish media began to manufacture a narrative, sometimes based on the police version of events and sometimes of their own concoction: that there had been a fight and the police were called; that bottles had been thrown and could have hit Inigo on the head ..... All these versions have been vigorously refuted by witnesses. Rodolfo Ares, Justice Minister of the Basque Government repeated some of these lies, criticised the Abertzale Left and announced an investigation of the incident no sooner than three days afterwards.
Young people organised impromptu gatherings of grief and solidarity immediately and afterwards there were some demonstrations, calling for the resignation of the Justice Minister and the removal of the projectile launchers from the Ertzaintza. At Athletic games in Bilbao, large banners were displayed and as they lined up on the pitch before the game, the Athletic players all wore T-shirts bearing the legend “Inigo -- gogoan zaitugu” (Inigo – we remember you).
Euskal Herria Bai (Basque Country Yes), a coalition made up of AB, Batasuna and leftist abertzales without party affiliation presented their electoral program for the legislative elections that will take place after the presidential elections in the French State.
Also, the Abertzale Left, EA, Aralar, AB and Alternatiba took a new step last Saturday towards unity in national and strategic activity with the signing of the agreement, “Commitment for a National Strategy.” Overcoming years of differences and discussions the five leftist and Abertzale forces signed a political agreement that unites abertzales from both sides of the frontier.
Many events were held in the Basque Country to commemorate the bombing of the Basque town of Gernika by the Nazi Condor Legion, fighting on the side of the Spanish fascist forces on 26th April 1937. The mayor of Gernika, who took part in several of these acts, called on the Spanish state “to restore honor to the Basques by telling the truth, as Germany did 15 years ago and recognize that the order for the bombardment came from Franco.” They also demanded that “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso be transferred to this town from the Queen Sofia Museum where it is exhibited.
Among the events organised outside the Basque Country were two in Ireland. In Belfast the Belfast Basque Solidarity Committee organised an event including a reception hosted by the Mayor of the city in the City Hall, while the Dublin Basque Solidarity Committee organised a seminar followed by a social event. In Dublin on the 27th, around 200 people heard Harry Owens and Enda McGarry give talks on the atrocity. After questions and answers, a DJ from Dublin Antifascist Action played for the attendance and Basque snacks were sold.
Relatives who have been killed by the state or who died as a result of state repression set up this month an association called “Egiari Zor” (“Duty to Truth”). Two hundred poeple with first-hand experience of the violence of the state and of its consequences participated in the founding ceremony.
For years the Association of the Victims of Terrorism, most of them relatives of Guardia Civil, have functioned as a right-wing group against all manifestations of Basque independence or self-determination. That assocation has often taken court cases under criminal law against activists of the Abertzale Left, demanded banning of organisations and demonstrations, etc.
The founding document of Egiari Zor however recognises the pain of others and seeks parity in recognition and in reparation and lays out some of the basic requirements, including a Truth Commission and compliance with jusice and democratic norms by the state.
Irish Basque Solidarity Committees