Monday, October 18

‘Maixabel’ takes to jail a plea for the second chances with the sit-in of ETA prisoners

The film ‘Maixabel’ had its most unique and emotional ‘premiere’ this Sunday morning in Pamplona prison. The film, directed by Icíar Bollaín and already premiered at the San Sebastián Film Festival this week, tells the true story of Maixabel Lasa, widow of Juan María Jáuregui, civil governor in the time of Felipe González assassinated by ETA in 2000. Who also was responsible for Victims with the Lehendakaris Juan José Ibarretxe and Patxi López at the time sat with two of the three terrorists, Luis Carrasco and Iban Etxezarreta, as part of a reintegration process that included repentance for the crimes. This plea for “second chances”, even for those who have taken up a pistol to take the life of another human being, has been projected inside the prison and, afterwards, a colloquium has been organized with Lasa and Bollaín themselves, who have not hesitated to enter the penitentiary. The premiere has been followed with interest by several dozen male prisoners and also by a dozen women, who have cheered the protagonists and thanked the message of coexistence and re-socialization. However, the applause could not be unanimous, as one group has chosen to continue with their prison routine: the nine ETA prisoners serving time in Pamplona.

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According to the Etxerat association, the transfer policy applied since 2018 by the Government of Pedro Sánchez and that ‘de facto’ has put an end to the dispersal of those convicted of terrorism crimes has left nine inmates in the Navarrese penitentiary. They are the women Josune Arriaga, Idoia Mendizabal and Olga Comes and the men Txuma Altable, Garikoitz Arruarte, José María Dorronsoro, Aurkel Sola and the best known -for bloodthirsty- Mikel Otegi and Josetxo Arizkuren, alias ‘Kantauri’. ‘Kantauri’ became one of the heads of ETA’s “military” structure after personally executing a long list of attacks. The movements authorized by Penitentiary Institutions require the acceptance of penitentiary legality by those who make up the group of prisoners of ETA, known by its acronym EPPK. However, this step is not comparable to the one that Carrasco, Etxezarreta and others took a decade ago in the so-called ‘via Nanclares’, which takes its name from the old Álava prison and in which the first “restorative encounters” between victims and condemned. The plan was stopped when Mariano Rajoy arrived at La Moncloa and now a similar proposal is being developed with a score of ETA prisoners interested in participating, according to the sources consulted. In their day, the EPPK and the nationalist left expelled those who took that step because they considered them traitors and collaborators with the state. The film ‘Maixabel’ reflects this reality well: for them there were never ‘ongi etorris’ and they were erased from the mosaics with the photographs of all the inmates so common in Basque streets.

In the colloquium, one of the common inmates openly asked about the ETA prisoners. “It was also my first question. Is there going to be ETA? They have told me no. It’s a shame,” said Lasa herself, who arrived at the venue with Bollaín almost at the end of the screening. With them, Eduardo Santos, now Minister of Justice in the Government of Navarra (the only one from Podemos in a tripartite with PSN and Geroa Bai, the Socialverdes and PNV coalition) but who was one of the mediators of the ‘via Nanclares’. He put his house for the first meeting between Lasa and Etxezarreta and he took the terrorist to a tribute to Jáuregui, in which he deposited as many red flowers as years in which he had not been there and a white one to symbolize his repentance. It was precisely the Navarrese Executive that organized the event in collaboration with Penitentiary Institutions and Bollaín has already shown its willingness to visit more prisons. It has been attended by other local, political and judicial authorities, and conditional access to the media has been allowed.

The Ministry of the Interior has not offered excessive information on the situation of ETA prisoners in Pamplona and their non-participation in this forum. It has simply been noted that the invitation was extended to 261 prisoners and 22 inmates – with 504 seats – and that, of them, whoever wanted, a total of 96 signed up. An official already explained unofficially that the men convicted of terrorism “They go their own way”, they act as a group and they have an exquisite demeanor. “They do not give any problem,” he says. They are in modules 3 and 4. They are in module 1, with the other internals. Another official explained that they have spent the Sunday day in their module, freely, doing other activities of their choice. Bollaín has also regretted this absence: “Let them see it, let them think.”

The rest have arrived on time for the appointment. They have left the cells in an orderly fashion and, in groups, they have taken their seats. The external guests, after overcoming a dozen rakes and without ID or mobile phone, have sat in the back to watch the projection with the inmates. At 10:09 the film started and, once it was finished, the discussion went on for another long hour.

And the message he has offered has made a deep impression on viewers. “Is there a reintegration program?” One of them, of American origin, asked aloud. There are 258 prisoners in restorative justice processes in prisons dependent on the central government, which are all in Spain except the Catalan ones. This will change very soon: on October 1, the three Basque prisons and their 700 officials are transferred to the autonomous community. 20 of the 258 are ETA prisoners. In Navarra, there are six people doing itineraries of this type, although none of the EPPK ones.

“The film is a hymn to the need for coexistence and the delegitimization of the use of violence. With violence absolutely nothing is achieved. Hate does not lead to anything,” Lasa explained very slowly on an almost naked stage except for a white sheet that read ‘Maixabel’ as a rudimentary decoration made by hand by the inmates. It had cut-out gold letters and black and white frames in which the leading actress, Blanca Portillo, could be guessed. “It would have been impossible to do this when ETA killed. We knew we were getting into difficult terrain. There are many [terroristas condenados] who have a terrible, provocative and cool attitude. Were we whitewashing something? No, because the speech [de Carrasco y Etxezarreta] It could not be more delegitimizing of violence. The message is clear: violence leads nowhere, “said Bollaín.

“My father was assassinated by ETA when I was five years old,” an assistant revealed then from the public. The intervention has allowed commenting on the figure of María Jáuregui, Lasa’s daughter, who has traveled from positions more reluctant to approach the murderers to participate in public forums, according to her mother. The same command that ended Jáuregui’s life committed other crimes. One of them was that of Santiago Oleaga, from ‘El Diario Vasco’. And, if three months after the attack against Jáuregui Lasa he was already on the street addressing 100,000 people asking for dialogue for peace, there are other victims with different rhythms. Amaia Guridi, widow of Oleaga, explained it this way a few months ago about the possibility of meeting Carrasco or Etxezarreta: “The body does not ask me to be with any of them and I will not be. This world is very big. We have many sidewalks . Let them go for yours, I’ll go for mine. ”

Those rhythms also occur among terrorists. The commando that killed Jáuregui and Oleaga, as well as businessman José María Korta, had a third leg, Patxi Xabier Makazaga. Of the trio, he is the only unrepentant. An inmate has asked Lasa about him. “I would love for this person to ask me to be with him. But I don’t know right now in what condition he will be,” he said. However, recent information from ‘El Diario Vasco’ indicates that he would be one of the twenty interested in initiating a reintegration process. The inmate reminded those present that it was Makazaga who pulled the trigger while Etxezarreta waited outside the bar in the that the attack took place with a white Renault 18 ready to flee and while Carrasco was accompanying him. “The issue of the shooting is anecdotal. Everyone is responsible. And also the one who ordered it,” he said.

The fact that Jáuregui was a member of ETA during the Franco regime has also aroused the curiosity of the public. “What was his function?”, Has inquired a young prisoner. Lasa explained that he was part of the “political” branch of opposition to the dictatorship and that, after his time in prison as a result of the Burgos Process, he approached CCOO and the PCE. Then he jumped to the PSOE, who proposed him for the position that today would be equivalent to that of deputy delegate of the central government in Gipuzkoa. “He testified against Galindo for the crimes of Lasa and Zabala,” his widow recalled. She herself, at the head of the Office of Victims, extended the recognition to relatives of those killed by the GAL or by other organizations beyond ETA. “They are just as victims as me,” he said. Precisely this position forced him to take an escort after he appeared “in the papers of a terrorist commando”. Lasa is no longer a member of any party and calls himself “free” and “transversal.” She left the PSOE two years ago expelled for having supported her right-hand man in the government stage, Txema Urkijo, when he was a candidate for Íñigo Errejón’s party.

The assistants have considered Lasa a “mother of courage” and a “very strong woman”. They have said that thanks to her “that war ended here, in the Basque Country.” “Olé, you!” Exclaimed a man, who had no need to offer further explanations of his gratitude. Only one has openly advocated an eye for an eye: “My family is sacred. I would have avenged myself. If I caught it at the moment … There would be no forgiveness.” “I have felt identified with the part of having done harm. Thanks to that, I have been able to separate myself from what I was living,” an inmate with a yellow sweatshirt and a crime committed for which no one has asked him has been honest. Ordered, the prisoners have left the auditorium and returned to their modules convinced that the movie of their life could have a second part. Others, on the other hand, have continued with their routine.

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