Some time ago, Erwan Fouéré gave an interview to Bremañ, a magazine in Breton language. This Irishman of Breton descent (he is Yann Fouéré’s son) is the OECD’s current conciliator in charge of finding a solution to the problem between Transnistria and Moldavia. Previously a conciliator for the European Union in the ethnic conflict in Macedonia (former Yugoslavia) he also had, back then, taken part to the democratic transition in South Africa.
As an Irish citizen, he also closely followed the peace process that led to the Good Friday agreement in 1998 between Protestants unionists and republican Catholics in Northern Ireland. Today, he continues to follow the progress of these different experiences and tries to leverage them for his current activities. He recently mentioned that he wanted to bring the different stakeholder of the Transnistria’s conflict to Northern Ireland to study together some steps of the peace process.
In his interview, Erwan Fouéré confirmed : there is now a framework process for the resolution of « low-intensity » conflicts. A process that is known by the Spanish government. South Africa, Northern Ireland, some conflicts in the Balkans, Palestine, the FARC guerrilla in Colombia and… the Basque conflict are low-intensity wars. Though very different from each other, they show some identical characteristics. Two of them are the questions about the weapons and about the prisoners.
If these two issues are not resolved, any peace process is, in the long or short term, doomed to fail.
Marianno Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, had a real chance to take with Iosu Urribetxeberria. This ETA prisoner, a cancer terminal patient who simply asked to die in his home, could have been, for the Spanish government, the opportunity to show good will. Mariano Rajoy could have taken a purely humanitarian measure that cost him nothing. With no election in sight (he won the parliamentary elections in 2011), Iossu Urribetxeberria, who has no blood on his hands, and the ETA ceasefire of 2011 allowed a further step in the policy of « détente ».
Furthermore, the success of the left-wing nationalist movement Bildu during two elections had greatly legitimized the war exit strategy carried by the political wing and a part of ETA.
Moreover, to facilitate the success of this option, the Spanish government had put in place a carefully planned and complete policy including the centralization of all prisoners supporting the end of the armed conflict, a more important pressure put on the hardliners and less aggressive actions (but still real !) on the supporters of the « political » solution, including Josu Urrutikoetxea Bengoetxea, aka «Josu Ternera», the influential historical leader still in clandestinity (and who is said to also suffer from cancer).
Today, instead of this step forward in the « détente », this carefully elaborated policy is voided. Worse of all, Rajoy’s intransigence is not even politically justified. Even if the conservative People’s Party is supported, in this case, by all Spanish political parties (the « national » political parties, as opposed to the Basque, Catalan, Galician, etc. parties.), such as its arch-enemy, the PSOE, and is under the pressure of the associations of ETA’s victims, Marianno Rajoy has clearly no articulated and structured policy about the Basque question and its relations with ETA.
ETA’s hardliners have found in Marianno Rajoy their best ally. The 700 ETA prisoners had played a major role in the organization’s declaration of « final end to the armed struggle ». They did not see any hope neither in continuing the armed fight nor with a ban on any political representation. They played a major role, not only because of their number, but also symbolically, with regards to the reduced forces of ETA’s active militants (between 50 and 80) who were not caught by the French or Spanish police.
Because of the internal and external pressure,the Spanish government had managed to put the hardliners in the minority and to dry ETA up. However, if Iosu Urribetxeberria dies in jail, the Kale Borroka (urban guerrilla), leaded by young nationalists, may start again, with its expected outcome : a new generation for ETA. The roughly fifty sick ETA prisoners will know that they have nothing to expect from the future, even for the ones condemned to long sentences and who saw their sentence prolonged the day before their liberation. The defenders of the political line will be put in a difficult situation and the anger of families of prisoners will certainly play a huge role on Bildu’s leaders who won’t want to be accused of giving up on the « presos » (prisoners) in exchange for mandates.
700 prisoners also mean 700 families, 700 friends and eventually, thousands of persons. Not giving them any hope is like killing the whole peace process.
Armed violence is often an outcome of a blocked political situation. The radical Basque youth is, in the South, not a lost minority at all. It is a very important part of the population, which was always a pool of resource for ETA and this, since 1959. All Basque people have had a relative, a family member, a friend, a friend of a friend, in or around ETA, or previously in the « Eusko Gudaroste », the Basque Army during the Spanish civil war.
The « gudari » (clandestine soldier) plays a big role in the way Basque people picture themselves. Thinking of killing the Gudari by only using a stick is a major political mistake of the Spanish government. ETA always worked on two dimensions, as its device says « Bietan jarrai » (« continue on two ways », meant « political » and « military » ways). If the first does not work, the second will automatically take over.
Stupidity, ideological blindness, political cowardliness, People Party’s end-of-dinner ranting, if Marianno Rajoy does not allow Iosu Urribetxeberria to die in his bed, he will have managed to give birth in a month, two years or ten years from now, to a new ETA.
Congratulations, you idiot !
English translation of Fabien Lecuyer’s original article