Thursday, September 04, 2008

Otegi Gets Out Of Jail

Last weekend saw the release from prison of Arnaldo Otegi, the man who would probably like to be seen as the Basque Country's equivalent of Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams. Otegi went to prison as part of the backlash following the breakdown of the last attempt to persuade ETA to dissolve itself.

Otegi finds himself in a complicated situation. The political party he led, Batasuna, is illegal and the next few weeks are almost certain to see the illegalisation of those parties who have taken much of Batasuna's support in recent elections; ANV and the PCTV. Otegi himself faces the possibility of returning to prison as a result of other charges that have been laid against him. The political climate at the moment does not favour any resumption of attempts to get ETA to give up the armed struggle, government ministers moved quickly following Otegi's release to make it clear that they saw no prospect of resumed negotiations.

Meanwhile there have been reports of discontent amongst ETA prisoners and exiles in South America. Some of these reports have to be taken with a pinch of salt, there are several hundred ETA prisoners in Spanish jails and the fact that some of these may now reject violence as a way forward doesn't necessarily mean that this is the general opinion. Nevertheless, there are expressions of discontent with the direction which ETA has taken, in the case of the exiles it seems that some have simply become tired of spending years far away from home. There are exiles who would not even face charges if they returned, given the time that has elapsed since they left.

ETA's leadership made a significant miscalculation in the last negotiations, and now it is difficult to see them forcing the Spanish government back to the negotiating table; assuming that this is what they want to do. Whilst this remains the case there is little role for someone like Otegi to play, he has been given permission to take a holiday in Italy and could probably make it a long one. Which is not to say that his time will never come, at some point ETA will have to face up to the reality of their situation and the futility of their continued existence.

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