In the days prior to October 12, Spain’s national holiday and, at the same time, Civil Guard day, the second Basque political force, EH Bildu, had launched a campaign under the slogan ‘Alde hemendik!’ (‘Let them go!) calling for the exit of the State security forces with the image of an agent with a tricorn hat and a suitcase walking away. The coalition has displayed a large canvas in the center of Bilbao with the same message, as it has spread. Thus, the delegate of the Government of Spain, Denis Itxaso, has modified at the last minute the speech that he had prepared for the main acts of October 12 in Euskadi, which, like every year, take place in the Sansomendi barracks in Vitoria, to criticizing the “sectarianism” of the nationalist left after haranguing the uniformed in Basque.
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Itxaso has rewritten with a black pen while he was being taken by car the speech that he had printed to add a note against “any exercise of sectarianism or exclusion” against those who “should be part of that society”. “The State security forces never remain”, added the socialist Itxaso, who gave parts of his speech in the Basque language, highlighting the Civil Guard and who concluded with a ‘Gora Espainia!’, ‘Gora Erregea !’ and ‘Gora Guardia Zibila!’, in addition to the equivalent ‘vivas’ in Spanish.
According to the representative of the central Executive in Euskadi, “the Civil Guard is an institution that since its creation in 1844 has been, is and will continue to be a model of adaptation, loyalty and public service”. It so happens that Álava is the only province in Spain where this body is not the oldest, since the Foral Police or Miñones body, from 1793, also operates here. Itxaso has also appealed for coordination with other police bodies because “it is always beneficial in terms of trust for society”. “Your dedication is beyond question. The effectiveness of your work is already known and recognized in Basque society”, he also pointed out about the green uniforms.
“We Basques do not celebrate Hispanic Day”, the leader of EH Bildu, Arnaldo Otegi, replied at an event in Ziortza-Bolibar, a small town in Bizkaia where Simón Bolívar’s last name comes from. “We Basques celebrate our Aberri Eguna claiming our sovereignty. Today, after the military parades, they will remind us again that the project they defend is supremacist, that it imposes a language, a flag, a model of state and a mandatory country”, the nationalist leader added.
The ‘Bat, bi, hiru, lau’ of the military band
If Iñigo Urkullu has not been to Madrid for the central events of the Spanish national holiday, no nationalist position has been to Sansomendi either. The Vitoria City Council was represented by the deputy mayor, Maider Etxeberria, but she is from the PSE-EE. There were also no charges from the Provincial Council or the Basque Government, although two uniformed Ertzaintza commanders have participated together with the Civil Guard, the National Police and the French Gendarmerie in the acts of Sansomendi. The general-head of the armed institute in the Basque Country, Antonio Campos, has expressly thanked the collaboration of the Autonomous Police and also the role of Osakidetza during the pandemic, to the point that they have decorated a director of the Basque Health Service with the imposition of a medal. Campos, who also made the greetings in Basque and French, took advantage of the act to bid farewell to the position since he will retire at the beginning of November. He has done it by kissing a Spanish flag. Itxaso has also applauded his “professional skills”, his “commitment” and his “high human sense”.
Among the authorities present there were other socialist positions such as Senator Julia Liberal or Parliamentarian Gloria Sánchez, but no one from the other formation that makes up the Government of Spain, United We Can. Yes, members of PP -Laura Garrido, Carmelo Barrio or Ana Morales- and Vox -Amaia Martínez Grisaleña- have attended. The president of the Superior Court of Justice of the Basque Country, Iñaki Subijana, the superior prosecutor, Carmen Adán, and her Alava counterparts, Mercedes Guerrero and Carmen Cotelo, were present.
The acts have had a marked martial style, as was traditional before the pandemic. A force made up of a squad of spenders and two platoons of civil guards both from the Álava command -with tricornes- and from the GAR (Rapid Action Groups) -with berets-, dressed up by the music band of the Army’s Garellano de Bizkaia regiment de Tierra, have paraded in the inner courtyard of the barracks. They have asked for “respect” and “composition” towards the rojigualda flag, a priest has read a few words in tribute to the deceased and salvos have been fired into the air. The enclosure has been decorated with abundant Spanish banners. The band has performed, within its repertoire, a version of the traditional Basque song ‘Bat, bi, hiru, lau’ whose lyrics end with ‘euskaldunak irabazi, aurrera!’, that is, ‘may the Basques win, go ahead! !’.
The Government delegate has given the data that there are 2,270 Civil Guard agents in the Basque Country, of which barely 10% are women. Itxaso has demanded more female presence because this will result in “more efficient, fairer and closer police organizations.” General-Chief Campos, for his part, has enumerated the powers of the body in a territory in which the Ertzaintza is the “integral” body ahead of the Civil Guard and the National Police and has highlighted some recent “important operations”. “We continue to fulfill our mission”, has defended the still highest command of this body in Euskadi, a demarcation that also includes the enclave of Treviño, belonging to the province of Burgos and where it does have full powers.