The public statement by Arnaldo Otegi apologizing to the victims caused by ETA's violence and his forceful declaration that EH Bildu "feels their pain" and that "it should never have happened" is the most important condemnation ever made by the abertzale, the Basque pro-independence left. The work accomplished for the resolution of the political conflict in the Basque Country is distilled in this phrase whose arrival is very welcome, and which some will consider late and others a mistake. But it fulfills a demand very often made by broad sectors of Basque society, a society which a decade ago began the arduous path of reconciliation.
They are just 66 words, read in 31 seconds, but they encapsulate a public repentance that undoubtedly has a special value and meaning. The text says: "We want to make a specific mention of the victims caused by ETA's violence. We want to convey our sorrow and pain for the suffering they endured. We feel their pain, and that sincere feeling leads us to affirm that it should never have happened, as no one could be satisfied that all that occurred, nor with it going on for so long. We should have managed to reach Aiete earlier" - referring to the name of the palace where the international conference on the resolution of the Basque Country conflict was held on October 17th, 2011.
In any other country, Otegi's words and his radical commitment to peaceful means would be a source of joy for the entire political class. Only in Spain does this not happen and the right, which inhabits a space outside normal reality, seems to always take the position of showing that its attitude of "the worse things go, the better" is fixed and permanent. No expiry date. It is part of the vertebral column of its ideology that it does not turn the page and lives permanently anchored in the past. With this attitude, the Basque Country would not have taken irreversible steps towards a different future and would not have managed to overcome the enormous pain experienced, the unjust deaths produced and the fracture of society.
Of what happened in the past, nothing will change, but building a different future is possible. With these few threads, great fatigue in the population, the relentless attrition that in the final stretch of ETA meant its loss of social support and the permanent police disarticulation of its leadership, the terrorist organization came to its end. The fear that lasted for many decades, palpable in each and every corner of the Basque Country, gave way to a hope that had to be laboured over and needed to take root in a clear and irreversible commitment to politics and participation in the democratic institutions.
On days like this Monday one can see that with tenacity and hope winning the future is possible. And that there are steps on the path to reconciliation that are long anticipated and, consequently, very important.