No one should be sent to prison for their ideas

It's good that Arnaldo Otegi has finally been released from prison. This report in the Irish Times quotes him as saying:

"They say that in Spain there are no political prisoners, but you just have to look at the number of cameras here to see that yes, they do exist.

"I went in as a Basque speaker and I come out as a Basque speaker. I went in as a socialist and I come out a socialist. I went in wanting independence and I come out wanting independence."

Irish Times, 1 March 2016

He also received this support in the form of a tweet from Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos:

      The release of Otegi is good news for democrats.
      No one should be sent to prison for their ideas.

What might happen next? There is no doubt that Otegi is the towering figure of the pro-independence left in the Euskal Herria, and he is bound to take a prominent role with EH Bildu in the Basque Parliament elections scheduled for November this year. The only problem he faces is that when he was sentenced for his role in reviving Herri Batasuna after the Spanish State banned it, he was himself banned from public office until 2021.

For the moment, however, the focus lies elsewhere. The Catalans are steadily setting up the institutions necessary for Catalunya to function as as independent state, and Spain itself is in political limbo after the elections of December last year. The Spanish situation will, probably, be clear in a few months ... either because a new government will have been agreed, or because new elections will have been held. Once we know how that situation pans out, the battle lines for November will be that much clearer. But there is little doubt that independence for the Basque Autonomous Community will be on the agenda. As Otegi said recently in a written statement from prison:

"Sooner rather than later we will use the right to self-determination and thus transform ourselves into a new state of Europe."

New York Times, 29 February 2016

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Anonymous said...

Otegi will want more than just the BAC to be independent.

MH said...

Of course he does, 00:19. He regards all seven provinces, the four in the Spanish State and the four in the French State, as the Euskal Herria. The same is true of the Països Catalans, split across Spain and France. The question is only whether it is better for one part to become independent first, with the rest following; of whether one becoming independent will entrench the division and make it harder for the others to follow.

The Basque situation in Spain is very close to that of Ireland a century ago. The three provinces in the BAC (Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Araba) will vote to leave, but Nafarroa is heavily Hispanicized (particularly in the south) and isn't likely to. But Nafarroa is becoming more Basque in terms of the numbers learning Basque so, like the Six Counties, the demographics are slowly moving.

Was it better for the Irish to accept partition, even though it entrenched matters for a century and for who knows how much longer? Or would it have been better to wait, for who knows how long, perhaps forever? It's a hard question.

Personally, I lean towards the idea of grasping independence as soon as possible because, if the new state shows itself to be successful, there will be an already-trodden path to follow. But even if it doesn't happen for some time, the Irish model of offering citizenship to those living in the other territories (and even voting in elections and sending representatives to parliament, if that idea gets off the ground) provides some of the benefits of independence.

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