Friday, December 31, 2004

ZAPATERO'S FIRST BIG, I mean really big test is already here:
The Basque Parliament approved a measure on Thursday that says the Basque region has the right to secede from Spain, a move analysts described as the most serious threat to national unity since the establishment of democracy here nearly 30 years ago.

The measure, approved by a vote of 39 to 35, is part of a complex plan that calls for an overhaul of the region's relationship with the central government in Madrid.

"We express our will to form a new political pact," the plan says, "that grows from a new model for relations with the Spanish state based on freedom of association."

Before the vote, which was held in the Basque capital, Vitoria, Juan José Ibarretxe, the president of the Basque region and the main author of the plan, said, "We are not proposing a project for breaking away from Spain, but we are formalizing a project for friendly coexistence between the Basque region and Spain.

"The Basque country is not a subordinate part of the Spanish state," he added. "The only way there will be a shared relationship with the state is if we decide there will be one."

Political analysts said that the vote gave momentum to the separatist movement in the Basque region, and presented the central government with the task of confronting the movement without inflaming it.

"This is the clearest push for independence that the Basque country has made," said Antonio Caño, a senior editor at the newspaper El País. "It is a very clear challenge to the unity of Spain. I'd say it places the country in its biggest crisis of unity since democracy began here."

[...] The plan now moves to the national Parliament, where it will surely be rejected, analysts said [both the Socialist party in government and the Popular Party -the main one in the opposition- reject it -- F.A.]. But supporters of the plan, led by Mr. Ibarretxe, said a defeat would not stop them from submitting it to a popular referendum in the Basque region next year. The central government has said such a referendum is illegal.
Not only illegal, it would be so undemocratic that it wouldn't even pass UN standards for free elections (and that's saying much!). Look guys, I believe people have a right to self-organize the way they want to, as long as they follow the law. And as long as any vote about any proposal is truly free. But you cannot call free an election about an issue whose opponents must have bodyguards 24/7 because they can be gunned down any minute as it has happened is several hundred times (and I mean all opponents with even minor political roles; for example, a councilwoman for the Socialist party who is a janitor in the night shift must work accompanied by armed bodyguards!). Or when people are afraid to speak their minds in public, because if they express any 'not 100% Basque nationalist' idea, some masked guys can go to your home at night and throw in a firebomb. There's several thousand people who have had to move to other parts of Spain in recent years because they simply couldn't resist any longer (wouldn't that fall under the definition of ethnic cleansing?)

But (there's always one 'but' eh?) well have to see how much Zapatero's government will oppose the Basque unilateral independence plan supported by the threat of ETA violence:
Several papers speculated that Ibarretxe could press ahead with a referendum in the Basque country regardless of the national parliament's vote. The PP had threatened to throw him in jail if he did so, but the Socialists have opted for a less confrontational approach that may limit their options.

Furthermore, the Socialists depend on support from small regional parties for their parliamentary majority -- and some of those small parties have more than a little sympathy with Ibarretxe's agenda.
Oh, and just as and end note: don't buy the crap about 'moderate nationalist' as several of the linked items define Ibarretxe and his party. True, they don't use guns or kill people, but they masterfully play a good cop, bad cop routine; while Ibarretxe and his ilk talk relatively nice, the radicals and ETA do the dirty job. And both sides profess an extreme nationalism based in ethnicist principles, celebrating the 'father' of the Basque Homeland, Sabino Arana. If you want to learn about the ideology, just read this post by John Chappell at Europundits, commenting some texts by English journalist John Hooper about the philosophical basis of Basque nationalism ("It's closer to Fascism than you might think"), and with some 'unvaluable' translations of Arana's doctrine. Be sure you don't miss it.

UPDATE. Some minor editing to fix a few typos, but I'm sure there's still a few: as I say on the blog's heading: "My English is not perfect? Well, it's not my mother tongue, so sue me!"