In 2020, one of the images during the first state of alarm by COVID-19 was the activation of the Armed Forces for special actions such as the disinfection of infrastructures or nursing homes. Many Basques saw Spanish Army operations in the streets of their cities for the first time in their lives. There were fifteen from March 14 to June 18, according to the estimates of this newspaper. In 2021, another of the unknown images in democracy has been the installation of a recruitment point for young people in the heart of Bilbao, to which the Civil Guard joined. It happened on Wednesday of this week.
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“This has never been done in a democracy. Its the first time. In other communities it is done. In fact, the van with the soldiers, the brochures and the forms came from Valladolid ”, explains Vicente Reyes, deputy delegate of the Government of Spain in Bizkaia and ex-parliamentarian of the PSE-EE during several legislatures, among other positions. The socialist leader understands that the Basque Country is experiencing a “moment of political stability” once “the ETA terrorism has passed”, which had the Armed Forces under its threat. 10 soldiers were killed in the Basque Country, according to the Covite association’s ‘Map of Terror’.
At the initiative of the Ministry of Defense -in which Margarita Robles remains after the remodeling of Pedro Sánchez’s cabinet-, a van with ET registration of the Army and labeled with the recruitment website ‘soldiers.com’ and images of young soldiers He parked in one of the busy areas next to the Doña Casilda park in the capital of Biscay. Those responsible for the campaign removed a pole with a red-yellow flag, a small counter for brochures covered with an awning and a ribbon of the usual ones at airports but with anagrams of the Armed Forces. Along with them, a crew of the Civil Guard exhibiting a brand-new patrol car also showed its specialties in a territory where it has powers limited to the surveillance of coasts, ports and airports, control of weapons and explosives and some operations in the supra-autonomous area.
“Every year, although there was no such offer, there are about 100 young people from Bizkaia who apply for Army posts. They are examined and entered, ”indicates Reyes, who remarks that there are two annual calls for troops and one for officers and non-commissioned officers. “They explained one more job opportunity and that’s fine with me. It is one of the options offered by the State. People are retiring and need staff. In Bizkaia alone there are about 1,400 civil servants apart from the security forces and the Army. They work in Bizkaia and for Bizkaia every day in Social Security, Tax Agency, SEPE or foreign trade. We have a very broad service ”, insists Reyes. On October 1, part of this staff, the prison officials, will depend on the Basque Government, which will manage the Zaballa prisons in Álava, Basauri in Bizkaia and Martutene in Gipuzkoa until the construction of the Zubieta prison is completed.
Reyes himself and senators of the PSE-EE came to support the initiative. Significantly, Vox also attended with its only Basque parliamentarian, Amaia Martínez Grisaleña, who took photographs and videos to disseminate them on social networks. “We are in a park in Bilbao. They are here recruiting people. It is something that has amazed us ”, declared the representative of the extreme right. The subdelegate of the Government also highlights the scant opposition to the visit, just “a small group with a banner for a while.” However, national groups have made their discomfort public.
The Armed Forces have about 1,500 troops in three detachments in the Basque Country, Araka in Álava, Solletxe in Bizkaia and Loiola in Gipuzkoa, which will finally be closed and will lead to a transfer to another nearby location. In 2015, with the Basque Pedro Morenés as Defense Minister within the Government of Mariano Rajoy, a draft reorganization was made in the deployment which led to the technical disappearance of what was considered the ‘Basque brigade’ of the Spanish Army, the San Marcial brigade. Since then, the Garellano from Bizkaia, the Tercio Viejo from Sicilia from Donostia or the Flandes from Vitoria battalion have depended on commands from other military regions, including Extremadura. At that time, personnel and vehicles left for other destinations.