Arnaldo Otegi: “Enemies of peace, having PP as leader, want to muddle the peace process in prisons”

original full interview in basque language in elgoibarren.net

Arnaldo Otegi (Elgoibar, 1958) has given his opinion on the sentence gave in the Bateragune trial by the Supreme Court of Spain, and on the current political situation, all from prison. Meanwhile, he has also given his reflections on the challenges of the left, on the independence, and on the topic around the prisoners. This is an interview carried out a week after having news of the appeal to the sentence given by the Supreme, an interview carried out just after Otegi was informed that ETA named a delegation to have “direct dialogue” with the Spanish and French Governments.

Despite the reduction of the sentences, the Supreme Court agrees with the Special Court (Audiencia Nacional) on the thesis that “all is ETA”. What is you opinion on this?
When assessing this the first consequence is clear: when the Spanish courts judge Basques they use political criterion when they write the sentences, and not with legal criterion. Another consequence: with our detention and imprisonment they sought that the Abertzale Left did not choose the peace way, and now, with this sentence (as carried out with the Parot doctrine), their goal is to wreck the peace. It is also harsh, and I will say it clear again: the enemies of peace (PP, PSOE, armed forces…) follow their own agenda to collapse the process. But they will not succeed!

The sentence of the Supreme have made lots of people go out to the streets. What do you think about it?
First of all, thanks a lot to all those who have shown solidarity to us and our relatives. Second, I would say that the new situation we are living in the Basque Country multiplies the possibilities to work together. In this sense, I am glad to have seen so many people at the places and streets of Elgoibar involved in so many activities of the Abertzale Left, EA, Aralar, Alternatiba, Gaztetxe, ELA, LAB, UGT, CCOO… and also with people from PSE-EE and EAJ-PNV.

Lots ask about how you are and how you live what is happening out the prison. How do you live the ‘new era’ created since ETA’s ceasefire till now?
I follow the political and social development very closely. We made a big job in order for ETA to take that step, and it gives me confidence and strength. The time imprisoned (I have spent ten years altogether) I carry it as Mandela once suggested it: cultivating my mind (learning, reading…) and taking care of my body (doing sport) and, at the same time, keeping in mind Ghandi’s saying every day: if you are dominated by an unfair government, every citizen should be imprisoned.

After knowing the sentence of the Supreme, some newspapers published that the Abertzale Left was left without an eligible president for the Basque Country. They talked about you. Do you imagine yourself as a president? Is Abertzale Left’s goal to achieve the presidency?
When we were arrested, they wanted that the Abertzale Left lost our leadership taking me out of the political sphere. Now we are happy, because they think that, without me, Amaiur will not win the elections of the the Basque Parliament. We will see who is happier in the elections night; we will be for sure! More than the presidency, our goal is to create a government in favour of the economic, social and cultural interests of the majority of people. To achieve a sovereign and left-winged government that will stabilize peace and confront the economic crisis.

ETA has named a delegation to have direct dialogue with the governments, and they have also asked Europe to support a process to give a definite solution to the conflict. They think that there are enough conditions to carry out the Declaration of Aiete, and they have asked the Spanish and French governments to give a positive answer. What do you expect from those governments?
They will not move if we do not make them move, because they do not want peace! It is important to take into account that those who deal with an agenda that works against peace lived very comfortably using ETA’s armed struggle as an excuse for everything. Now, however (without excuses), they have no alternative but the peace scenario. They are afraid, they are weakened, because they know that they have no democratic argument to deny the Basque Country its right to decide its own future in a free and democratic way. That is why they are continually forced to make new excuses/conditions, because even without excuses their authoritarian and oppressive stance against our people is more and more obvious.

ETA has addressed the European Community in his last manifesto, and they have asked the European Institutions to support the process. What role should Europe play in the ‘Basque conflict’?
In our new strategy it is very important to achieve the international complicity, and in this way, the Conference of Aiete made it clear to what extend reaches this complicity, in the frame of the democratic solution. The Basque issue is a European issue, because we are a European nation and because the states that oppress us are in the European Union. The most important reason: the solutions we claim in the European frame are already working: in Ireland and Scotland, for instance.

The Abertzale Left wants the independence. Some put into question the advantages of it for the Basques. What do you think?
Some months ago, the Spanish University Carlos III did a deep research on this topic and they said the following: the Basque Country and Scotland, before Catalonia, are the two territories that best fit the economic (and other) conditions to be a European (independent) state, and I repeat that this was stated by a Spanish university. Secondly, I would say: Basques sell the 30% of our production in the Spanish market. It is well known that the Spanish market is in bankrupt and that it will not get over; it will not go back to the previous situation. Having this in mind, we are forced to sell our production to European countries and to developing ones (China, India, Brazil) in order to have the least dependence on the Spanish market. Thirdly, we have to increase the internal demand, the welfare state (wages, health, education, reinforcing public sectors…). Because this way we will get out of the crisis, offering a social and progressive alternative to the neoliberal alternatives. Finally, a question: who is ready to leave the economic, social and cultural future and education of our children and grandchildren in the hands of Aznar, Rajoy, Rubalcaba, Mayor, Rato, Ares, etc.? We are not. We want all that in the hands of Basques.

Why independence?
I will answer briefly: in order for Basques to live much better now and in the future.

You have said, “without social struggle we will not achieve the goals”. I do not know whether it is the case of Abertzale activists, but the compromise level may have decreased. Activism is not a momentary thing. How to unify forces?
Fortunately, in Basque Country there are lots of compromised people in politics, as well as in culture, Basque language, or sport, and this makes this people very rich. Now there are different possibilities working to unify forces: we are getting left-winged independentists together, we also have a big forces accumulation in favour of the prisoners, and I think that it is very necessary to get together in order to confront the economic crisis.

If you talk about the independence when you say “we will achieve the goal”, provisionally, do you see any opportunity to attract EAJ-PNV?
In favour of the independence, it is the social majority what is necessary to seduce, as well as the social basis of EAJ and PSE/PSN, no doubt. Convincing and organising this social majority we will be unstoppable.

How does a people reconcile when there are still so many unclosed wounds? In you opinion, what is compulsory and what is recommendable in order to achieve peace?
I think reconciliation is maybe a too big goal by now. It is time to start respecting one another and to acknowledge the responsibilities of the suffering generated by each one, and to compromise not to repeat it again. We are already doing it. The states are not, and mostly because PSOE and PP are trying to impose a story based on lies (or not on all the truth). The president of the Basque Autonomous Community, Lopez, says that the future will have to be based on the truth, justice and memory, and we agree, but we say that it should be based on the whole truth, the whole justice and the whole memory.

You have said that lots think that the new strategy of the Abertzale Left on ‘the only and decisive innovation’ has been the one around the armed struggle, but you have said that it is more than that. What new strategy brings Abertzale Left?
It was clear for me long time ago that it was an indispensable condition to put an end to the armed struggle in order to get a new strategy, but, at the same time, it was also clear that it was not enough to achieve our goals. The Abertzale Left offers a and integral, democratic and liberating alternative to the Basque Country, looking for a way out of this civilisation crisis, at a national as well as a social level.

On 7 January Egin Dezagun Bidea organised a demonstration in Bilbao that put the prisoners in the middle of the political debate. Some want them to go home, and the others says that there will not be any amnesty. What kind of influence will the topic on the prisoners have on the way to achieve a solution?
Peace and the solution ways ask for the freedom for the prisoners. As claimed in Basque Country, Ireland, South Africa, and other places. Now, the enemies of peace, with PP as their chief, want to muddle and collapse the peace process in prisons making up new conditions, and it is necessary to confront this, because they want to use the prisoners against the peace.

What steps do you foresee from now on?
I will not specify them, among other things, because I would need a too long time, but in general I would say: we will answer the blocking attempts of the enemies of peace with new steps.

Would you like to tell your fellows something?
I would like to thank them for the solidarity shown, and at the same time, I would like to encourage those who are living hard times for some reason or another (unemployed…). And, finally, I would like to ask for their participation in the historical moment we are living. Health and freedom for everybody!