Backlash sees Spanish minister rectify comments comparing violence in Catalonia with Basque Country

Fernando Grande-Marlaska says he was referring to street unrest only following accusations of him "trivializing" terrorism and insulting victims

Spain's acting interior minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska at a press conference on October 19, 2019 (by Maria Belmez)
Spain's acting interior minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska at a press conference on October 19, 2019 (by Maria Belmez) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

October 28, 2019 01:34 PM

Spain's acting interior minister on Monday clarified statements he made in an interview with a newspaper that suggested he had compared the recent disturbances in Catalonia with the Basque conflict, which over decades caused the deaths of hundreds of people.

The interview with 'La Razón' newspaper was titled "In Catalonia the violence has had a bigger impact than in the Basque Country." Yet, Fernando Grande-Marlaska called the headline misleading and said he was referring just to the street violence in both places.

Denying he had compared the unrest in Catalonia with the violence by the Basque terrorist group, ETA, the acting minister said his comments were exclusively about the issue of "public order" in Catalonia, which has seen pro-independence supporters clash with police.

Referring to the recent disturbances in Catalonia, Grande-Marlaska said that "officers experienced in public order explain that they have never faced such direct street violence from individuals who stand their ground against police action."

Victims hit back at minister

The minister's interview sparked a backlash not only from the pro-independence parties but also from victims of ETA's violence. Even the head of the Catalan Socialists, Miquel Iceta, corrected his party colleague, saying "the violence in the Basque Country was worse."

Barcelona mayor, Ada Colau, urged the minister to rectify his "false and incendiary" comments she said were "offensive" to the victims of terrorism, while former president, Carles Puigdemont accused Grande-Marlaska of "trivializing" the pain of terror victims.

Meanwhile, Catalonia's interior minister, Miquel Buch, regretted his counterpart's comments, saying that "comparing a situation with almost 800 deaths with what is taking place in Catalonia is totally ill-judged. I regret it and condemn it."

Rosa Lluch, daughter of Socialist politician Ernest Lluch, who was assassinated by ETA in 2000, also condemned the comments, saying they "not only trivialize terrorism but are also an insult to the victims," and she urged the minister not to "make the situation worse."