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Has Ertzaintza used rubber balls in Vitoria for the first time since the death of Cabacas?

  • Several agents and people reported on social networks, accompanied by photographs, that the Ertzaintza used rubber balls in the aggression against the demonstration of March 3 of Vitoria. The complaint did not have much impact, but if it were true we would be faced with a significant fact: it would be the first time that the Ertzaintza has used rubber balls since it killed Iñigo Cabacas in Bilbao in 2012. Although in 2015 Minister Estefania Beltran of Heredia announced his intention to ban the use of balls completely, the Mobile Brigade still has the possibility to use them.
Ertzaintzaren gomazko pilota bat Bakea eta Postas kaleko bidegurutzean, lurrean, Martxoaren 3ko manifestazioaren egunean. Argazkia: @JardunK

18 March 2024 - 06:58

Journalist Gedar and coordinator Aritu denounced the use of rubber balls. ARGIA spoke with two members of the socialist movement and the Action that the balls saw. Both have situated the presence of the balls on the cruise between the streets Paz and Postas de Vitoria, a few meters from the first load of the Ertzaintza in the English Court. After this first load came a great deal of confusion, which was accessed by a high-speed Ertzaintza van, beaten by several protesters and trapped under the feet of one of them. Members of the Socialist Bloc and Action were meeting there.

The socialist movement says that, as the Ertzainas went down the van, “very hard” shots were heard, “there could even be firecrackers, who were expelled during the demonstration, but surely they were not foams, which make less noise.” Then he saw a rubber ball on the ground and a colleague picked it up. The acting colleague also saw in the middle of this chaos a ball on the ground, and one person took it next, “I asked him to leave a picture, I pulled it out and brought it.”

The organizing trade unions and the association on 3 March received information on the wounded and detained in the coming days. ARGIA has been explained that, in addition to the two above cases, there has been no other information about rubber balls. No one denounces that the ertzaina has seen rubber balls flushed. So far the information gathered by ARGIA, which leaves in the air a number of doubts and questions.

Photo: socialist movement





Concerns and questions

It could be that the ball that appeared that day in the streets of Vitoria-Gasteiz was more than two (it cannot be ruled out that the two balls are the same). It does not seem very possible, however, to have been launched in a widespread way or in a significant amount, as it is logical to think that the many people and cameras there saw it or received it. Were they only shot down by one or more Ertzaines? Obey orders? On your own initiative? In search of another kind of explanation, is it possible that the ball fell into some ertzaina or a camper without throwing it out? It can be rare (although this means they carry balls). Many possible hypotheses, none seems very solid, but the balls appeared and not from the hand of the protesters. Only the police, their unions and the Department of Security can provide answers.

And you should give them, because they're twelve years old. Let the Ertzaintza not shoot with the rubber balls because it is a deadly weapon: since they killed Iñigo Cabacas in Bilbao with a punch. For 11 years the Mobile Brigade can only use it in situations of “exceptional risk”. Since the Security Advisor, Zazpi Estefania Beltran of Heredia, announced his intention to abandon the rubber balls definitively. Will they give explanations?

At the moment there is no explanation.

As for the trade unions, following the serious injury suffered by the minor Xuhar in the carnivals of Tolosa, the Esan, Erne and Sipe trade unions published a joint note to defend the action of the Ertzaintza and to ask Erkoreka to cancel the use of rubber balls. No such request has been made for Vitoria-Gasteiz. As for the Department of Security, counsellor Josu Erkoreka did not explain the balls to the questions of the journalists cited when he explained the aggression of Vitoria.

The day after the Vitoria charge, EH Bildu parliamentarian Julen Arzuaga presented a series of questions to the Security Department: “Are there rubber balls between the riot gear used?” The MEP explained to ARGIA that, during the elections, only "urgent" procedures are processed, and that the urgency is what the parliamentary bureau decides, where PNV and PSE have a majority. In this situation, Arzuaga doubts that they will answer him. If questions are accepted, the department has a period of one month to answer.

Arzuaga, in any case, emphasizes the way the Department of Security is doing. The protocol for the use of both rubber balls and foam launchers is “reserved”, so it is not possible to know if balls have been used and why. Compared to Catalonia with the CAPV: in Catalonia the protocol is public, the balls are completely discarded and the two existing foam models (the most dangerous SIR-X and the least dangerous SIR) the most dangerous is being eliminated; in the CAPV the protocols are secret, the balls are not completely abandoned and the SIR-X model is not intended to be dispensed with.

Commitment to the disappearance of rubber balls

On April 2, 2012, Athletic footballer Bilbao Iñigo Cabacas received a punch in his head, after the Ertzaintza charged him in a festive atmosphere after a match. He was in a coma and died on April 9. Three days later, the Security Advisor, Rodolfo Ares, and the director of the Ertzaintza, José Antonio Varela, appeared in Parliament. They announced that they had already decided to “limit” the use of balls and that as of 1 January 2013 the Mobile Brigade (and the missing Booster Brigade) could only use them in situations of “exceptional risk”. Then the foam launchers replaced the rubber balls.

In April 2015, the parliamentary majority supported a motion calling on the government to “definitively replace” the balls with other material. The PNV voted in favour. In May, in the same Parliament, the Security Council, Estefania Beltran de Heredia, expressed its readiness to “comply” with this request and announced a “way” to achieve this goal. After nine years, this path has not been known. On the contrary: in recent years the unions of the Ertzaintza have repeatedly called for the opportunity to re-use the balls to all Ertzainas; and in 2021, the representative of Beltrán de Heredia, Josu Erkoreka, defended the possibility of using the Mobile Brigades as a “last resort”. Was the “last resort” used in Vitoria? We will hardly know, and that is already denouncing.

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