A True Account

Original Article: Un relato veraz
Source: El País
Published: 5 Nov 2018

Peace cannot be seen as the equivalent of forgetfulness, nor can any old account be accepted under the pretext of healing the wounds of the past, because the only thing that is achieved, in the end, is to keep wounds open and prolong the pain of victims. That is why the Herenegun project (“The Day Before Yesterday” in Basque) of the Basque government is so important. The project aims to teach students aged 15-18 about recent Euskadi (Basque Country) history, during the period 1960-2018. And it will only be introduced in classrooms once the teaching materials have the support of those who suffered from the terror of ETA, and importance is given to the fact that the group assassinated those who they believed were hindering their totalitarian-leaning political project.

The Herenegun project is based on five videos of 20 minutes each, which in turn are based on the series entitled Las huellas perdidas (The Lost Traces), created by ETB (Basque Television), and advised by prestigious experts. Nonetheless, the educational videos have provoked the direct rejection of victims’ associations, both the People’s Party and the Socialist Party, as well as several historians. They criticize the fact that the videos maintain in some aspects an equidistance that is incomprehensible. The Spanish government has also announced that it will present allegations by November 16th. The Basque government wants to introduce the course, experimentally, in eight centers during the final quarter of this academic year. But it would be prudent if lehendakari (Basque President) Urkullu suspends the announced plan, and reschedules the process once all of the allegations and proposed modifications are considered, and consensus is achieved, by all means possible as promised.

Many of the criticisms are justified. For example, there is no mention of those who did not give in to ETA threats and went into exile. And historians argue that repeating the fact that the terrorist group was formed under the Franco regime can give the impression that the group was an inevitable consequence of the dictatorship’s repression. In reality, 95% of ETA assassinations were committed during the democracy that followed Franco’s death.

Since ETA halted its assassinations — the last was in 2010 — the Basque Country has experienced what is called a struggle for the story, in which every word is considered essential and in which those who supported the group or minimized its crimes attempt still today to conceal the threats and the terror caused by ETA under the guise of “armed struggle” or “conflict.” At the same time, numerous studies have highlighted the danger of forgetting the past in younger generations: According to a study from the University of Deusto published in 2017, 47% of Basque youth did not know about the bloodiest attack of the group, carried out at the Hipercor supermarket in Barcelona in 1987, resulting in 21 deaths. And 40% did not know who Miguel Ángel Blanco was, nor the terrible fate the young People’s Party councilman met at the hands of ETA.

It is important that an accurate history be retold in classrooms of the terror to which ETA subjected the Spanish people, and the Basque people in particular; a retelling in which the victims are recognized.