Basque Country

The struggle in Catalonia for self determination has shaken the whole Spanish state. It has forced all political forces to take a stance.

Much of the left across the Spanish state, while not supporting the repression of the right-wing government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, have also not supported Catalonia’s independence process.

As the battle for the right of Catalonia to vote on independence rages between the Spanish government in Madrid and the independence-oriented Catalan parliament in Barcelona, major developments have taken place in one of the most famous struggles for independence on the Iberian Peninsula — the Basque Country.

April 26 marked the 80th anniversary of the infamous aerial bombing of Gernika by the forces of General Francisco Franco in the fascists’ war against the Spanish Republic. The war began when Franco led a military rebellion against the legitimate, elected republican government in 1936, with the fascists eventually triumphing in 1939.

The Basque Country is a historically oppressed nation divided between the Spanish and French states. It was the scene of some of the worst fascist violence.

Basque political prisoner and Sortu secretary-general Arnaldo Otegi after his release from prison in March last year.

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.

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