X.M.Errekondo: The fact that they use the label of ETA to refer to us is demonstrating a total political weakness

original full interview in spanish nueva tribuna newspaper

The Congressional spokesperson for Amaiur believes that the PSOE wasn’t sufficiently brave enough in the process of the end of ETA since it “had the opportunity to advance and to have closed the cycle.” Errekondo supports the rights of the prisoners and says that asking for the dissolution of ETA “makes no sense.” In his view, the government of the PP “is putting off its responsibility as far as resolving the conflict once and for all.”

After being absent for two decades, the Abertzale Left has returned to Congress by the hand of the coalition that you represent. Their arrival in Madrid wasn’t free of polemics. The PP blocked them from forming their own parliamentary group. As this subject has cooled off, what was the PP’s strategy in making this decision? Why do you think they did it?
It’s true that there has been an important time period where we haven’t been in Madrid and it’s not by chance. You have to remember what happened the last time the sovereigntist left came to Madrid: an attack in which Josu Muguruza was murdered. And in some way, that has stayed in the mind of the Basque Country and it has taken time to overcome all that and to commit, to understand that the Parliament, the government of Madrid can be a way where we can work and contribute in what we call the “process” and the current reconstruction of the Basque Country. As to the rest, the assessment is positive, in that I believe that we are fulfilling the objectives that we marked out and it is negative as far as the previsions about the strength of the government that we have, of the PP, which has blocked our activity from the beginning, first by not being received by the candidate for the presidency, Mr. Rajoy, that was a first-class political mistake, because at the same time we were received by the King.

The crisis, the cuts by the government, labour reform, the bank bailout, the “Bankia Case”, are subjects that Amaiur has been making pronouncements in the past weeks. Does it bother you that they continue to label you with questions related to ETA?
It’s not that it bothers us. The fact that they use the label of ETA to refer to us is demonstrating a total political weakness, in the sense that ETA is now out of what is the political dynamic in the Basque Country. ETA, the only thing that it is demanding is to take steps towards a solution, in the consequences that that it has given rise to, in the struggle of these years and from there the activity that corresponds to Amaiur is nothing other than to contribute, that this “process” is consolidated and that we take steps forward, as far as the construction of this new socioeconomic model, beyond the commitment that this government is making, which is stagnating in maintaining this neoliberal model above the rights of the people and above what is the defence of public services and social protection.

You defend sovereignty, the right of self-determination of the Basque people, are you willing to sit down to talk about a Federal State?
We are not closed off to anything. We are open and we also hope that others are as well. First to recognize that the Basque Country is a Nation and therefore its citizens must be the ones’ to decide what is it that they wish to be and if they decide that they want to be a federal state inside of the Spanish state, that will be respected without a doubt. From there, that they can defend absolutely each and every one of the projects that each formation puts on the table. We know what ours is, which is independence and a leftist socioeconomic model. If society decides in the majority for this model that is what we will go for but they can decide for another, the question isn’t so much for the project in itself, the end of the path in itself, but the way and the rights that have to be guaranteed in order to exercise them.

What expectations does the Abertzale Left have for the Basque elections that could foreseeably come early?
With the EH Bildu option we are certain that there is going to be step beyond even what Bildu and Amaiur have supposed, and in this sense we are going to be an important reference, we are going to demonstrate that the Basque Country is thinking in a nationalist solution, in a sovereigntist solution if we understand the PNV to defend sovereignty, and of course in a majority leftist solution and that is because the people are going to identify that the best option is that which defends the socioeconomic model that is based on the tools that are given with the option to be independent and to be able to manage fiscal, labour policy by yourself, the State to State relations because it is demonstrated that on the contrary, being dependent on another state, in this case Spain, conditions us as far as our own development of the Basque Country.

Do you give any credibility to the rumours that point to Arnaldo Otegi as the candidate for Lehendakari?
Credibility, absolutely all of it, in the sense that I believe that there is no person in the Basque Country who doesn’t recognize the worth of Arnaldo Otegi as a possible representative of that institution that politically represents the Basque Country. Of course I would say that the ideal would be to represent an institution that includes the seven provinces of the Basque Country and not only the autonomous community which only represents three provinces.

What is your opinion about the initiatives for prisoners of ETA to meet with victims of terrorism?
When you are talking about Basque prisoners we are talking about the rights that the Basque prisoners have. The penitentiary legislation covers some rights; however for Basque prisoners, as a consequence of a political conflict, they have been applying for all these years’ exceptional measures beyond what is penitentiary law. The consequences of these measures have reached levels that have been denounced from the first day of their application. Dispersion has caused the deaths of many family members and here no one talks about it and these are also victims of the penitentiary policy and when we speak of the prisoners we are speaking of that, that they simply respect what the penitentiary legislation says. That, as a base. And later, as a consequence of what the conflict has been, the end of armed activity one has to put an end to all of the consequences that armed activity has had in these 50 years that it has lasted. There has to be an exit, the truth must be told and for that there are two fundamental actors, ETA, on the one hand, which has to contribute all it knows, and of course the State, the State as responsible for the Francoist period, of all the victims. I wouldn’t ask for the dissolution of the State, not while the State contributes all it knows to tell the whole truth or at least not before it assumes its responsibility for all of the victims that the State has also caused. When we speak about the prisoners, we understand that the measures of exception, dispersion, all prisoners with serious illnesses must be released, which in this case numbers 14, they have to set free all of those who have completed their sentences based on the law, they have to repeal the “Parot Doctrine”, which has been one more tool of punishment, the consequence of an anti-terrorist law that goes beyond punishment in itself. In this dynamic we are for the demands of the rights for the prisoners.

Yes, but, what do you think about prisoners of ETA who meet with victims?
I think analyzing this possibility isn’t bad, of course not. An exit must be given to the consequences in an orderly way, which puts a stop to the problems of the victims telling the truth, recognising in the case of each one the damage that has been caused. But beyond all of that, you have to focus on the prisoners, disarmament, demilitarization; all of this has to be done in an orderly and controlled way, certified by an intermediary body recognized by all sides. The Declaration of Aiete makes an effort on this road, and puts on the table that the International Contact Group could be a mediator in this labour. They are people of renowned international prestige, this could be the way. And it has to be recognised by all of the parts and at this time the Spanish government is the only one who doesn’t recognize them.

No member of the government or the PP has got in contact with Amaiur to talk about the end of ETA?
The objective of Amaiur is not to be an interlocutor in the process, that has to be clear. The interlocutors in the process and the consequences of the conflict have to be on one part of the state and in the state the representatives of the Government, and on the other side, ETA. As far as giving an exit to the political conflict and putting an end to the causes there are the political parties in the Basque Country. Our objective is to push in this direction and we are in Madrid working in the institutions that aren’t ours, but working so that the government understands the path they have to take. The problem with the government is that it has some internal currents with many contradictions as far as commitment and the time for acting, with respect to the conflict and its consequences and right now it is in a process that I would almost call internal, they are trying to adapt to the new times.

What value do you give to the previous president of the government, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, in achieving the end of ETA?
There is some value, especially Jesus Eguiguren as his main representative in the Basque Country. I think that no one can doubt that he was the representative of the PSOE, and especially the PSE, in the “process”, with the relations that he had with the Abertzale Left and with ETA. The government of Zapatero was behind him and it was also evident that there was a certain distance from Eguiguren. I believe the PSOE wasn’t valiant because they had the opportunity to advance – although you have to recognize that the responsibility is on both sides – and it could have gone much farther and closed the cycle. In fact, I asked Zapatero in the Investiture Debate, we greeted each other for a moment, and we talked about that he didn’t give time for us to finish what we began and however the commitment was real and it continues to be real because now no one knows what can happen with the PP. He admitted to me that it was a shame but that he believed that the PP would take the baton and what began would really come to an end, what Eguiguren began and what he in a way represented.

You told me before that you would never ask for the dissolution of the State, do I understand that you would also not ask for the dissolution of ETA?
That is like squid ink, it wants to mix things up, it’s wanting to avoid or postpone or delay the responsibility of the government of the PP of resolving the conflict once and for all, it’s playing with time in a way. Because for the same reason that I have said this of the state, which is a comparison, ETA also has a responsibility to assume. Who is going to tell the truth on the part of ETA if not ETA? For that, Brian Currin and Jonathan Powell spoke about an orderly process. Things have to be verified, you have to do them step-by-step, and you have to do them well because if what today you think you are doing right you are doing in a shoddy way you don’t guarantee that a similar problem, as a consequence of not having cured it within 30 to 50 years, it can’t flare up again. That’s why we say that the dissolution of ETA doesn’t make any sense. ETA has to contribute information about the acts that it has committed, the damage that it has caused, it has to tell the truth, but the state also has to recognize that in these 50 years there have been 50,000 arrests – only 7,000 have been imprisoned, we are talking about 14% – and 10,000 registered denunciations of torture, there are a great many victims on this side also. To ask for dissolution doesn’t make sense. You have to structure the disarmament but we are going to do all of this before.