Francisco still has to stop talking when he remembers how three grenades entered the kitchen of the Civil Guard barracks in Llodio (Alava). The walls melted like cigarette paper. He had just left there after leaving the dinner plate.
It’s been 32 years. His eyes are getting wet. Impossible to forget.
Esteban raises his arms to represent how his armored car was literally blown up when 150 kilos of Rubber 2 exploded under the bridge of the Bilbao-Behobia highway. Half a meter further back and your Nissan Patrol would have crumbled. He broke his leg. “Very broken. My future is a prosthesis.” But he lives to tell the tale.
It’s been 34 years. His voice breaks when he remembers the “many friends” who died in those ‘leaden years’. Impossible to forget.
“My destiny changed for a stone.” The one that opened the head of Consuelo OrdonezThe “kale borroka” was launched by a puppy while she was demonstrating against ETA together with dozens of people. Only a few days had passed since gunmen had shot her brother, the deputy mayor of San Sebastian Gregorio Ordonez. This made Consuelo a stony woman. Today she presides over the Collective of Victims of Terrorism (Covite).
It’s been 25 years. Consuelo criticizes the many who forget.
“I walked into the office and saw my brother dead on the floor.” Carlos Casañ He almost lost his breath as he recounted how he had to give his family the news of his brother’s death after finding him inert in Ferrovial’s office. “He’s been shot twice.”. How his wife took his three nephews (José Ignacio, 10 years old; Pablo, 5; and Cristina, 14 months old), went to a video store in the Gran Via Marqués del Turia, “took all the Disney movies” and went with them to a family apartment. To get them out of the way while their father was being buried. While the death was written down in the press as a settling of scores for drug trafficking. Until ETA recognized his paw.
It’s been 29 years. Carlos criticizes that even the state forgets.
Neither Francisco, nor Esteban, nor Consuelo, nor Carlos forget more than three decades later.
“Dad, does ETA still exist?” As I write these lines, my oldest son (11 years old) throws that question at me. The question leaves one with the relief that he did not have to live through those years in which the phrase “we have a breaking news story” in the news made one feel that another news story of fire, shrapnel and tears was coming. Those years like those of ‘lead’, in the 80s, when the murdering band was capable of taking the life of one person every three days. But the question also sows uneasiness: an enormous part of Spanish society is unaware of whether ETA has existedif it is still active and the long trail of destruction with 857 deaths behind their backs. They forget.
It took the State more than three decades to recognize Uceda as affected. “32 years later they accepted my stress about the bombing”
“How is it possible that 50% of people believe that ETA is still active? Or that six out of ten Spaniards do not know who Miguel Angel Blanco is?” laments Carlos Casañ. “There is a deliberate lack of information. They want to cover it up. No government has fulfilled its mission to remember. Only the victims do that,” says Consuelo Ordóñez at her side as she makes a quick cut. “So much so that they are now talking about historical memory? With us there never has been one,” criticizes Francisco Uceda on his right, in front of another café. “Whoever hasn’t lived it, it’s impossible to know what it is. I don’t forget. About forgiving terrorists, I don’t know, I don’t want to and I can’tYou can put the words in any order you want,” he finishes with another cut Esteban Company.
Dialogue and education
Nine years after that October 20, 2011, when ETA announced that it was stopping the killing (or “the definitive cessation of armed activity”, as they said with their invented language to hide the crimes), LAS PROVINCIAS brings together four people beaten by the gang. It sits them down to discuss the past and present. Theirs, which is the whole of Spain. Victims of ETA who now become another kind of victim: that of the oblivion of administration, society and education.
The fight against terrorism and its effects should be very much in the classroom. “It should be part of the curriculum of the Spanish educational system. It cannot be that teenagers are currently studying World War I or II, or the Spanish Civil War, which occupy a tremendously inferior period, and they do not study about ETA and the effects of terrorism, which lasted for more than 50 years in our country,” argues Carlos Casañ. They, the same ones who have carried on their backs the burden of seeing a dead brother, of seeing the walls around them blow up, or of knowing that their future “is linked to a prosthesis,” as Esteban Company repeats with a bitter smile as he caresses the left leg that he miraculously saved in the Basque Country; They are the ones who do the most to ensure that young people do not forget and do not stumble over the same stone again, with talks, conferences and activities in which they participate incessantly (Carlos Casañ and Consuelo Ordóñez) as members of the Association of Friends of the Manuel Broseta Foundation and the Collective of Victims of Terrorism (Covite).
Sanchez’s condolences. The victims debate his words when an ETA member commits suicide. And they remember what Thatcher said after an IRA member died: “He chose how to die, his victims couldn’t.”
That half of the young population in Spain does not know whether or not ETA is still active, or that six out of ten people between the ages of 15 and 30 don’t know who Michelangelo Blanco was or have forgotten the spirit of Ermua or the tide of white hands that Spain took after the vile kidnapping and murder of a shot in the back of the head of the PP councillor, all these data are not claims that the victims of the gang take off their hats during the walk through the cloister of the Nau of the University of Valencia and the subsequent discussion in the cafe of the institution, the places chosen for the report. These are the conclusions of a GAD3 survey for Amazon Prime, the channel that has already released a detailed documentary on the murderous history of terrorism, ‘The Challenge, ETA’.
“And ‘Homeland’. There couldn’t have been a better fit for the screen than the series. After Fernando Aramburu’s marvelous novel, we have to thank the work that has been done on television. There is no other work that has better captured the suffering of the victims, the sick society in which we lived, and in which I have lived, or the many people who were silent or looked the other way,” says Consuelo Ordóñez about ‘Patria’, the HBO series that today broadcasts its eighth and final chapter.
And then comes the debate. “I don’t think I’ll see it, I don’t agree with that poster that promoted the series, with the terrorist lying on the floor, as if he were the victim,” says Francisco Uceda. “Well, you should, I’m devouring and enjoying every episode. There is no denying any reality,” answers Consuelo Ordóñez. “I believe that not everything is valid. There are limits. I haven’t seen the series, but you can’t go to those extremes, not even if it’s a question of advertising and marketing”, points out Carlos Casañ.
The EH-Bildu Trap
And the debate continues, most heatedly when Francisco Uceda is mortified by the “deep regret” that President Pedro Sanchez said he felt for the suicide in prison of ETA member Igor Gonzalez. “It is infamous. The worst thing I’ve ever heard from a president. Consuelo Ordóñez’s reply, defending Sánchez’s response, is surprising. “You have to listen to all his speech. I have done it. He responds to a trick question from the senator of EH-Bildu, trying to make it clear that there is mistreatment in Spanish prisons, and one must be very cautious in what one says, because Europe is always very vigilant with prison policy”. Carlos Casañ disagrees completely. “That after 50 years of suffering I am able to say this…”, and he prefers not to continue the conversation so as not to move on to bigger words… Esteban Company gives as an example the answer given by Margaret Thatcher. “She had neither condolences nor regrets. She said: ‘This man has chosen to take his own life, which he did not let the victims take.».
Just as disappointing as the ongoing dialogues that all governments have pursued with the murdering gang. “My brother was the first to denounce it. Consuelo remembers. “And as he said, negotiate, in any case negotiate the color of the bars of the cells, but nothing else.” Everyone regrets that the end of ETA did not come with mass arrests and the intervention of arsenals. “A lot was done operationally, I wish it could have been done even more,” laments Esteban Company, still in the Guardia Civil as a lieutenant colonel. Even with consequences. Despite the lead in his mind. “It must be told. Many friends and fallen comrades did not have the same luck. Carlos Casañ underlines another phrase pronounced during the discussion. “They were about to fall in defeat. They lacked the police lace. But politically it was not wanted. The government did not dare. He says this moments after asking Francisco Uceda to tell him about his hell in Llodio, in that barracks that was blown up. Casañ does not blink as he squeezes his water bottle in the Nau. “My mother didn’t know I was in the Basque Country. She thought I was in a small town in Teruel. When I recovered and returned to Valencia, it was just because of Fallas. Every firecracker was a horror». It took three decades for the state to recognize his disability. “32 years later I was told I had post-traumatic stress disorder from an attack.” And Casañ doesn’t believe it.
Education. “Not to be forgotten.” These are the two concepts most often repeated by the four victims. Comfort with special emphasis. With the tenacity of someone who has looked into the eyes of dozens of abertzales and families hit by ETA. With an iron hand against forgetting. “You can’t negotiate with our memory or our right to justice.”
Nine years from the day ETA admitted defeat
LAS PROVINCIAS featured on a historic cover the announcement by the assassin’s band that they were giving up their attacks, “the definitive cessation of their armed activity”, as they called it. The victims already regretted then what they are still criticizing today: that they did not surrender their arsenal of weapons and that many are still not judged.