Basque leader Arnaldo Otegi praises Catalonia’s pro-independence process and assures there is “no turning back”
Secretary General of ‘abertzale’ Basque separatist party Sortu and former member of Basque terrorist group ETA, Arnaldo Otegi met this Wednesday with Parliament’s President, Carme Forcadell. The meeting provoked huge media expectation and also triggered fierce criticism amongst several groups in the Parliament. The People’s Party of Catalonia (PPC) and Spanish Unionist ‘Ciutadans accused Forcadell of “listening to terrorists” and met with the Association of Victims of Terrorism (AVT) instead. Earlier this morning, Otegi explained in an interview with Catalunya Radio that Catalonia’s pro-independence process “has no turning back” and that the aim of his visit is “to listen and to learn”. Otegi also hoped that the Basque pro-independence process would have a leader such as former Catalan President Artur Mas.
Barcelona (CNA).- Parliament’s President, Carme Forcadell, received this Wednesday the visit of Basque politician and Secretary General of 'abertzale' separatist party Sortu, Arnaldo Otegi, amid criticism from several groups in the Catalan Chamber. Convicted and imprisoned for "praising terrorism", Otegi was linked to Basque terrorist group ETA but later became one of the key negotiators in achieving the ETA ceasefire, in 2011. Earlier this morning, Otegi explained in an interview with Catalunya Radio that Catalonia’s pro-independence process “has no turning back” and that the aim of his visit is “to listen and to learn”. Otegi also hoped that Basque pro-independence process would have a leader such as former Catalan President Artur Mas. The People’s Party of Catalonia (PPC) and Spanish Unionist ‘Ciutadans accused Forcadell of “listening to terrorists” and met with the Association of Victims of Terrorism (AVT) instead.
After meeting with Forcadell, Otegi assured that he didn’t aim to meet with Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont. “We are well aware of how these processes work, so we’ll avoid adding more problems to those already existing”, he stated. However, he remarked that he believed that in the future he would have the chance to meet him.
Regarding the controversy which his visit has triggered, Otegi called for “talking more with the victims rather than talking so much about the victims”.
Fierce criticism amongst several groups in the Parliament
Otegi’s visit to Catalonia was organised by pro-independence radical left CUP and triggered strong criticism amongst several groups in the Catalan Chamber. PPC’s Xavier García Albiol considered it “outrageous” that an institution such as the Parliament “would give voice to the terrorists” and described it as “a lack of respect towards the terrorism victims”. In response, Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, reminded him that two former Spanish Presidents, including PP’s leader, José María Aznar, had met with ETA members in order to achieve peace. “Aznar said that, whereas there would be no violence, everything could be discussed”.
“Forcadell is not representing the Parliament nor the whole of the Catalans when she meets with Otegi”, stated the President of Ciutadans’ parliamentary group Carlos Carrizosa and put his party “at the victims’ disposal” and committed it to joining “any action to reject” Otegi’s visit.
In a similar vein, Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) spokeswoman Eva Granados refused to attend a meeting organised by CUP with Otegi and the members of the foreign commission. "We do not like this attempt at the ‘Mandelisation’ of Otegi”, she stated.
On the other hand, pro-independence cross-party list ‘Junts Pel Sí and alternative left alliance ‘Catalunya Sí que es Pot’ met with Otegi within the foreign commission’s framework and described it as “a demonstration of democratic normality”.
Forcadell expressed her wish to meet with the victim’s associations as well. Indeed, she will meet with the President of the Catalan Association of Victims of Terrorist Organisations (ACVOT), José Antonio Vargas. However, President of the Association of Victims of Terrorism (AVT), María del Mar Blanco, criticised Forcadell’s action and assured that support goes “either to the victims or to the executioners” as there is no “equidistance” on this matter.