Basque Country

In Bilbao’s hyper-modern Euskalduna Conference Centre on January 21, the Basque left pro-independence party Sortu concluded its refoundation congress by finalising the election of its 29-strong national council.

The congress brought together Sortu members from all parts of the divided Basque Country: its four southern districts in the Spanish state, presently covered by the regional administrations of Navarra and the Basque Autonomous Community (Euskadi), and its three northern districts in the French coastal department of Pyrenees-Atlantiques.

The re-foundation congress of Sortu, the left-wing independence Basque party, drew together hundreds of militants from the Basque Country, as well as dozens of guests and international representatives of revolutionary and national liberation struggles from around the world.

The Basque Country is divided between the Spanish and French states. Most is within the Spanish state and a struggle for self-determination from the Spanish state has been waged for decades.

Regional elections took place in the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country on September 25, registering an overall rise in support of parties that favour Basque self-determination at the expense of Spanish centralists. At the same time, the combined vote of broad left forces rose.

The elections were meant to decide whether the incumbent centre-right Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) would continue to govern in the Basque Country, an autonomous region in the Spanish state where a long campaign for self-determination has been waged.

Basque independence activist Arnaldo Otegi has been banned from running as a candidate in an upcoming regional election in the Spanish-controlled Basque Country. An electoral authority ruled on August 24 that Otegi, who was released from jail in March, could not run as a candidate for left-wing Basque party EH Bildu due to a conviction of alleged links to terrorism.

All media outlets in the Spanish state were dominated by the images of two men on March 1: one was leaving jail near the northern city of Logrono to the cheers of inmates he was leaving behind; the other was trying to convince the Spanish parliament in Madrid to vote him in as prime minister.


Arnaldo Otegi on his release from jail on March 1.

There were celebrations in the Basque Country and among solidarity activists around the world on March 1 as Basque political prisoner Arnaldo Otegi was released from a Spanish jail after more than six years.

Otegi, a leader of the Basque struggle for self-determination, was jailed by the Spanish state for politically organising in support of Basque independence.

Regional elections held in Spain on May 24 installed an historic pro-Basque state government in the Basque autonomous community of Navarre for the first time. It ended 16 years of rule by the pro-Spanish, centre-right Navarrese People's Union (UPN).

The UPN won only 15 seats, down four from 2011. Its ally, the right-wing Spanish People’s Party (of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy), won two, half of its quota in 2011.

An international campaign for the release of jailed Basque pro-independence leader Arnaldo Otegi was launched at a conference in the European Parliament in Brussels on March 24.

A statement calling for Otegi’s release was announced at the conference, which has been endorsed by international figures including former Latin American presidents, Nobel Prize winners, political representatives and former political prisoners.

An estimated 33,000 people marched through the Basque city of Donostia on January 17 to protest ongoing Spanish state repression against civil rights activists and lawyers in the Basque Country.

Marching under a large banner reading “Human Rights, Resolution, Peace”, the demonstration included members of the Basque pro-independence left coalition EH Bildu, trade unions and supporters of Basque political prisoners.

The Basque people have suffered long-standing repression and denial of national rights under Spanish rule, including many jailings of supporters of Basque self-determination.

The Basque nationalist movement is entirely committed to peaceful, non-violent means, with Basque armed group ETA declared a “permanent cessation” of armed activity in 2011. Spanish state repression has not ended, however.

The statement below was released on January 17 by the Basque Peace Process website.

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