On the morning of 20th February, 2003, I picked up the phone and heard Joxemari Irazusta's voice: "The Civil Guard have arrested Pello Zubiria." Pello? Joxemari told me the little he knew about it, and I couldn't believe it. I got back into bed; I couldn't digest the news. After turning around for a couple of minutes I got up again and set off for Lasarte (Gipuzkoa), the place where we edit ARGIA.
A few other people had been arrested, and I heard their names on the radio: Iñaki Uria, Martxelo Otamendi, Luis Goia, Txema Auzmendi… they were among those who had been arrested. “That's it, then: it's connected with Euskaldunon Egunkaria.” Egunkaria has been founded in 1990, supported by ARGIA amongst others.
When I got to Lasarte I found that the Civil Guard (Spain's special armed forces) were in our offices, and they had already taken Pello's computer and mine (I was the editor at the time); they had also taken thousands of printed photographs, CDs and other types of documents. Later on they also arrested Inma Gomila, our workmate and the former manager of Egunkaria.
They closed down the only newspaper published in Basque, trampled on the right to a free press, arrested 18 people, of whom some they tortured, sent them to prison, made 150 people unemployed, forced people to spend a fortune on legal costs… and seven years later everybody was absolved: The Spanish National Court found out that Egunkaria had not been at ETA's command.
The official reaction to the whole operation was no joke, it was no mere sign of an authoritarian state but, rather, evidence of an entire legal system. The vast majority of Basques, however, saw things in a different way: the state had attacked Basque culture in a clear and savage manner.
No excuses have been offered, no reparations have been made, no damages paid… the state's impunity is all that has remained. Why does the state which destroyed it all not have to build it all again? The only thing that can be built on top of such humiliation is imposition. A whole people's response and the image of solidarity remain on the other side of memory, along with the strength to rebuild the project of publishing in Basque.
Last week I was struck by the explanation which Imanol Olabarria gave in ARGIA of the events in Gasteiz on 3rd March, 1976, which the Franco police killed five workers and wounded hundreds. Being held under arrest in Madrid, he asked his lawyer what the charges were; the answer was "Sedition, in other words, working against the security of the state".
Defending workers' rights on the streets of Gasteiz is attacking the state. For current Spanish judges, Josep Lluis Trapero, the head of the Catalonian police, not to send agents out to beat people up was also sedition. The Spanish security forces complied with Spanish law by hitting citizens. Organising a referendum, too, is a serious crime of rebellion, just as publishing a newspaper in Basque was terrorism.
Looking at Spain, I see something hard and terrible when the 15th anniversary of the closure of Egunkaria is mixed up with current events: in line with the fascist rising of 1936, Spain is clearly going backwards. Looking at our land, a reflection connected with the closure of a Basque-language medium comes to mind: Basque media are in the strongest position they have ever been in. And that, in itself, is a lot.
A pension of less than 1,080 Euros. That is the figure which the Pentsionistak Martxan (Pensioners on the March) platform has set forward as the lowest dignified pension, and on 17th March tens of thousands of people demonstrated in the main Basque cities in support. The people furthest from that objective in the Basque Autonomous Community (Araba, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa) are women.
In 2017 somebody at Sarriguren (in the Iruñea area of Navarre) suggested that part of the town's participative budget be used to create a natural wooded area along the canal there.
The Basque Country Feminist Movement has given its first evaluation of the day. They underline that it was "a complete success", as can be seen in the photographs. They see the strike's success as turning point, and say it is time to take real measures "once and for all". According to the feminist movement, 230,000 women demonstrated in the Basque Country on the day.
Over recent years the FCC company has been in charge of keeping the streets of Hernani (Gipuzkoa) clean, just as in many other Basque towns. But from May onwards Hernani's own Garbitania public service will be doing that. Votes from EH Bildu and Orain Hernani (Podemos) passed switching the service from the private sector back to the public sector.
Basque political prisoner Xabier Rey Urmeneta has died in Puerto de Santa Maria Prison (Cadiz, Spain), more than 1,000 kilometres from his home in Iruñea.
A demonstration had been organised for 14th April in Iruñea in support of the three young people who have been held in prison for almost a year and a half, and to demand they be given a fair trial. After a pub brawl with two members of the Civil Guard (Spanish armed forces), they were arrested and have been held in custody since then.
Last Saturday the anti-incinerator movement organised a mass demonstration in Donostia-San Sebastian (Basque Country). They gave the provincial government and its leader, Markel Olano, a message: "Use your energy recycling, not just burning refuse".
Christian Prudhomme, the director of the Tour de France, has replied to a request made by Euskaltzaindia (the Royal Academy of the Basque Language), and stated that the official signs as the Tour goes through Senpere and Ezpeleta on 28th July will be bilingual, in Basque and French.
This year is the Eusko's fifth birthday. This solidarity and ecology-focused local currency is used in Lapurdi, Lower Navarre and Zuberoa (the northern Basque Country, which is under French administration). It is strongly supported by both citizens and institutions, and the aim is to continue enlarging the network which uses it. To celebrate the fifth anniversary, a "great family-style party" has been organised for 4th March.
The European Court of Human Rights has condemned the Spanish State for torturing Igor Portu and Mattin Sarasola. The judges decided that Spain had contravened the 3rd clause of the European Convention. The Spanish State has to pay the two men 30,000 and 20,000 Euros, respectively, "for moral damages".