Separatism and the rule of law in Spain | Letters

The majority of Spaniards are voiceless in discussions about Catalonia in the English-speaking media, writes León Fernando Del Canto. Arnaldo Otegi is wrong to claim that Spain is repressive, writes Ben Casement-Stoll

I am extremely concerned by your publication of an article by Arnaldo Otegi (Spanish state repression in Catalonia may be shocking – but it’s nothing new, 23 October), which builds upon previous opinion pieces published by the Guardian – in particular those by Carles Puigdemont – portraying Spain’s state repression as a reality. Puigdemont may represent a genuine fight, the cause of independence for Catalonia, and I am pleased that the Guardian is giving him a voice. However, I believe that you should make an effort to represent opposing views as well. The majority of Spaniards holding a different view are voiceless in the English-speaking media, and the government in Spain is well known for its lack of international statements. As a consequence, the conversation in English is dominated by those with funds to pay for a PR campaign. The Catalonian cause is paid for by an affluent class educated in English.

Meanwhile the constitutional system in Spain is misrepresented in English. The kingdom of Spain operates according to the rule of law. Millions of its citizens, including those of us advocating for a federal republic, believe that wrongdoing by the government, police or judiciary must be judged, and they are indeed corrected. We are critical of our government and point out its mistakes, but we can see too how citizens’ rights are upheld in courts and are proud of our democracy.

Therefore, having been concerned with Puigdemont’s views being presented one-sidedly, I am now deeply worried by the position the Guardian is taking on the Spanish rule of law by adding Otegi’s opinion. I kindly ask you to uphold independent journalism and publish the opinion of the large majority of people who think differently – an opinion absent from the English-speaking progressive media that the Guardian represents.
León Fernando Del Canto

• Arnaldo Otegi claims that Spain is repressive and undemocratic. Yet, after a career as a terrorist, he is now a free man and the leader of a Basque separatist party in the Spanish parliament, both of which suggest the opposite. His “political prisoners” are former members of Eta, the Basque terrorist organisation responsible for murdering more than 800 people in the course of their struggle for independence. They assassinated policemen and military personnel, judges and prosecutors, politicians, journalists, intellectuals and university professors, as well as 340 civilians.

The most recent attacks, including the killing of a French policeman, were in 2010-11. Otegi himself was convicted and imprisoned for the 1979 kidnapping of a prominent Basque businessman, part of Eta’s campaign of extortion and blackmail. If Otegi has reinvented himself as a democrat, it is in large part due to the success of the Spanish government’s anti-terrorism efforts and the increasingly outraged public reaction against Eta’s savage, ethnically driven violence. The real victims in Spain are not Otegi and his Eta collaborators, but the thousands of people who are still living with the scars, psychic and physical, of separatist violence.
Ben Casement-Stoll

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