original interview in GARA basque newspaper

Interview with Ibon Meñika; A young Basque with a long trajectory first in the youth movement and later in the defence of Basque Political Prisoners.

He was one of the spokespeople of Herrira arrested in September and now is a drop among thousands. He points out the importance of a new factor in the political context of the Basque Country: “Basque society is demanding their participation in an active way, they don’t want to be a mere spectator.”

First they went after you (Herrira), later the EPPK and Tantaz Tanta. The legal proceedings are also mixed with all of these activities. As a member of what was Herrira, was there some relation among all those?
There isn’t any type of direct relation. Herrira began as a plural movement, without belonging to any acronym or political project. Their main point of action was the demand for the respect for the human rights of the prisoners and exiles. Our trajectory has been directed towards grouping forces, people, sectors that agree with this demand that they stop violating rights. This doesn’t mean that to plant this demand you have to agree with the political proposals of the prisoners and exiles.

What do you think the Spanish state is trying to do with this offensive?
It’s clear that the State wants to establish a dam so that a solution isn’t given to the conflict, and this limit is situated in the question of the prisoners and exiles, because they know that if this knot is untied, clearly the resolution process will be unstoppable. They are seeing that the social majority is organizing itself around the necessity of giving an imperative solution to the question of the prisoners, and seeing that each time there are more sectors implicated, they act.

The response of Saturday January 11th was very important, but did the demand for the rights of the prisoners become blurred or pushed into the background? Is that a problem?
Until Friday afternoon, when the press conference took place that called for the new demonstration, everyone in this country understood that the main demand was related to the end of dispersion and with the rights of the prisoners and exiles. It is true that in the end, for the situation that occurred, in the announcement they didn’t cite it expressly, but it was included in the three main points of the mobilization – human rights, resolution, peace – and these were the postulates that the movement in favour of the rights of the prisoners have maintained. It was implicitly there and it was palpable.

In the past months there have been clear advances (the releases because of Strasbourg, the decision of the EPPK…), but there have also been obstacles and even set-backs (the stubbornness of the state towards the EPPK, raids…). What weighs more, do you perceive that it is advancing or not?
It advances with convincing steps but it is true that on the part of the Government or the most rancid Spanish Tea Party they see it as an attack on their postulates. A faithful example is the current situation. However, Basque society has acquired a commitment, which is that this problem has to be solved and they are going to take steps in this sense. Therefore, we have to centre ourselves on the question of that the society has acquired a collective commitment and from there there it no turning back. Even so, it is foreseeable that the apparatus of the Spanish state keeps putting obstacles to impede it.

As a member of what was Herrira, what do you think Tantaz Tanta has meant? Have they advanced on this path, have they gone farther?
It has meant an advance and the social majority has understood it this way. From Herrira they tried to promote an innovative work philosophy in which the protagonist was the person. This reflection comes from the verification of that Basque society is demanding, in an active way, their participation in a resolution process, they don’t want to be mere spectators. On this path the contribution of Tantaz Tanta has had an important reception. We have to channel this force so that the resolution of the conflict becomes real.

Tantaz Tanta committed to the protagonism of the citizens and included a general criticism of the political class for not finding solutions, but right now it seems that even the PNV is willing to get its feet wet more for a solution. How do you see it?
It’s an exceptional moment, as was the prohibition of the mobilization of Tantaz Tanta, an exceptional response was given, as was reflected by the those who made the later appeal. It’s positive that there are social, political and trade union agents who want to implicate themselves. Society will welcome that they advance in this direction. That’s positive and it helps. That said, throughout history Basque society has always been polarized in blocks. At this time, a social majority is creating bridges that overcome front-based politics. Society must acquire the main protagonism and the political class must attend this reality. In time, these two realities will come together in a tsunami.

The Spanish, and the French, governments ultimately hold the keys to the prisons. Do you think that they are going to be able to sustain this blockage indefinitely?
The starting point for them not to have the possibility to sustain this blockage resides in the capacity of Basque society to activate itself, to seek and find frameworks and channels of active participation, and that this social pressure becomes the motor and the true key so that the penitentiary policy changes and that dispersion becomes a reality of the past.