Friday, March 23, 2007

The Zap government just blew it big-time with Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi. Otegi was to be tried before the National Court yesterday on charges of exaltation of terrorism. If convicted, he would have had to go to prison, because he's already got a fifteen-month suspended sentence that would have been unsuspended upon conviction. So the prosecutor's office, which to my knowledge is part of the Justice ministry and responsible ultimately to the prime minister, dropped the charges and Otegi walked.

This is just ridiculous. Exaltation of terrorism is against the law. I'm not especially fond of laws that block free political expression, but I can understand them in a country that's lost 800 dead to ETA. Therefore, the law should be enforced and those who exalt terrorism should go to jail, no matter how much popular support they have in the Basque Country.

Besides, the government's strategy should be to put as much legal pressure on ETA and its political branch, Batasuna, as it can. The goal should be to lock the bastards up and keep them there until they agree to a real peace, which would start when ETA renounces violence and turns over its arms. The only concessions I would be willing to throw them would be a) release of prisoners in for political crimes (e.g. Batasuna members in for illegal demos or exaltation or holding meetings of a banned party), but emphatically not of anyone involved in a violent crime b) the legalization of Batasuna (after a public renunciation of violence, of course), but with any member convicted of an ETA-related crime to be permanently inhabilitated from holding public or party office.

The PP is right on this issue. The Zap government screwed up badly, and it is responsible.

By the way, parts of the more extreme wing of the PP have been raising the specter of a breakup of Spain as a result of the Catalan statute or Zap's climbdowns in the De Juana Chaos and Otegi cases. That's a bit of an exaggeration. It's not going to happen anytime soon, among other reasons because the current Spanish constitution makes it impossible for any part of Spain to secede. You'd have to change the constitution before any region could split off legally.

Anyone trying to split off illegally would certainly face military intervention by the central government, and nobody's that dumb except for ETA and its crowd. Also, of course, no one splitting off illegally would be invited into such organizations as the EU, UN, and NATO.

I suppose my attitude, as an outsider on the inside, is that if a region of Spain (Asturias, for example) really, really wanted to be independent, and proved it by voting massively (say, two-thirds or three-quarters of the vote) in favor of a non-violent, democratic party that wanted Asturian independence at three or four elections in a row, then you'd have to change the constitution and let Asturias have a referendum on independence. The thing is, of course, that there is no region in Spain in which such a party gets more than about 15% of the vote. Neither CiU nor the PNV favors independence; ERC does.

By the way, I'd feel the same way in the US. If Alabama voters voted overwhelmingly in several consecutive elections for an Alabama Independence Party, I'd want to change the Constitution and let them go. That, of course, is highly unlikely. Yes, I know this argument leads to the question, "What about the Civil War?" Well, first, the Southern states were not a practicing democracy by my definition, since slavery was legal. Second, the (white) people of the Southern states never voted in favor of secession in a referendum. Secession was voted by the (elected, it's true) state legislatures. Third, many white people in the South (though not a majority) did vote for the Southern Democrat candidate, Breckenridge, in the 1860 election. However, Breckenridge was not calling for secession during the campaign. We can't say a vote for Breckenridge was a vote to secede. And anyway, he got less than a majority in one election, not a huge majority in three. And fourth, I'd have been against starting a war with the South in order to preserve the Union. So was Lincoln, though he figured that the South would start the shooting sooner or later. The South did start the war by firing on Union troops, and once the war starts, you need to win it--and while you're at it, abolish slavery.

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