Monthly Archives: March 2008

Who you are, what you are

Geraldine Ferraro, campaign adviser to Hillary Clinton, has resigned in the face of accusations of racism from the other democratic candidate, Barak Obama.

Ferraro‘s comment in dispute was that part of the support that Obama has is due to the fact he is black.

This is not racism. This is a fact. It is entirely true that many people do base their vote on issues absolutely unrelated to the political program of the candidate they are voting. If the candidate is too short, too fat or too bald, he/she will be at a disadvantage over a candidate who is taller, slimmer and has hair. The same goes for other factors, such as the sex or race of the candidate.

If someone is voted because they are taller than the competing candidate, that is wrong, but it happens.

Likewise, if someone is voted because of their race, it is also wrong, but it happens as well, in the same way it would be wrong to be in favour of a particular candidate only because she would be a woman rather than a man, or vice versa.

Any consideration about who the candidate is, as opposed to what they say or do, is wrong. To point out that humans do take who you are into account, and to point out that such behaviour is benefiting someone in particular, is not wrong.

I do know people in Spain who wish that Obama be the next president of the United States, because they would like to see a black president in the USA. This train of thought does reveal racism. On the other hand, to say that such thought is present in some or many people’s head is not racism.

Barak Obama was not right to criticize Geraldine Ferraro, who should not have resigned.

Obama‘s accusation of racism on the part of the campaign of his opponent is mere opportunism. Accusing others of racism is a good way to earn votes.

The curse of short-term memory

Short term memory is the worst problem and enemy of the people of Spain, and it is also the best ally of indecent politicians. In the wake of the assassination last week of an ex-councillor of the Basque Country town of Mondragón, several politicians claimed yesterday that alliances of their parties with ETA political brand “ANV” in several town halls should come to an end.

That’s strange… isn’t it? Why do they want to end such a relationship just now? Do they know now something they did not know earlier? Oh wait… don’t say that last week’s killing is related in any way. Is it because ANV refuses to denounce the assassination? Yes, this is why. But those parties that are now eager to distance themselves from ANV are very well aware that ANV has refused repeatedly to denounce previous ETA killings.

The ruling party in Spain, the PSOE, refused in 2007 to block ANV from running for municipal elections. There’s a law in Spain, agreed by the two major parties (PSOE and PP), that dictates that parties like ANV must not be allowed to run, precisely because they are nothing but a facade of ETA.

Yet, the PSOE allowed some of ANV’s lists to run in the local election. Other parties, most notably Prime Minister Rodríguez Zapatero‘s government allies (PNV, IU, ERC), but also others, raised their voices against any move to declare ANV illegal (as per the law). The Popular Party (PP) was the only one calling for such declaration. All other parties then heavily criticized the PP for trying to go to such extremes.

The time of the election came, and ANV won sufficient seats in several town halls to occupy the seat of town mayor.

Now, March 2008, two days before a general election in Spain, ETA killed a PSOE member in the town of Mondragón, governed by ETA buddies ANV. ANV is supported in this city hall by IU.

Now all those parties that used to criticize the PP are renouncing any link with ANV claiming that ANV is not behaving democratically and is not denouncing terrorism. All those parties are cynics, starting from the PSOE, and including IU, PNV, ERC, and all the rest. They were perfectly aware of ANV’s roots in ETA, they were perfectly aware that the proof was ready to initiate legal action against ANV, but they blocked all attempts from the PP to move ahead. Their reason for blocking is quite simple: Prime Minister Rodríguez Zapatero‘s conversations with ETA, and his giving in to ETA’s blackmailing.

The Popular Party has been the only one standing by the law and calling for the ban of ANV, since the 2007 local elections campaign until today. For this, they have been demonized and regarded as an insolent, from other parties as well as from several important media houses. Yesterday, March 11, 2008, all the rest claim they will stop supporting ANV in multiple town halls.

The Spanish citizen is left in their short term memory with the vague memory that the PP was bad (without a clear idea why) and that now everyone is very good for distancing themselves from ANV. Once again, short term memory wins, and the majority of people loses, but especially the families of those who are killed for a political manoeuvre designed to take advantage of that very short term memory.

Such short term memory of Spanish people (or of the majority at the very least) seems like a heavy curtain that transforms a detail-rich recent past into a confusing cloud of numbered key messages perfectly orchestrated by mass media, which end up being the set of people’s memories about that recent past. A continued such custom will allow political parties to comfortably continue to argue one thing one day, and doing the opposite the next.

Political interpretation of assassinations

Yesterday (March 8th 2008), the daughter of the slain former town councilor (Isaías Carrasco, killed by ETA last Friday), called for high turnout at today’s general elections in Spain, asked his father’s killing not to be used politically, and ended her speech cursing the assassins.

Her wish of high turnout is elemental and necessary, and it is also desirable in this general election, regardless of whether it is advantageous for one political party or another, as some say. The curse directed at the assassins is natural, understandable, and I fully back her in expressing it.

However, unfortunately, the very killing of her father, like every other terrorist killing (ETA’s or not), is a political act. Those killers intend to do politics by killing, and precisely for this reason, it is mandatory that the response from individuals, society and politicians is a political response.

Despite her wishes to avoid any political utilization of this killing, that is sadly impossible, as the killing itself was politically motivated. It was the assassins who turned the tragic death into a political event. Politicians and regular people are not to blame for making Carrasco‘s death a political issue.

Most political analysts in Spain claim that high turnout at the elections normally benefits the PSOE. Most likely such high turnout is what ETA was after by getting a PSOE member killed just two days before the election, to cause a feeling of empathy for the PSOE, due to the relationship of the slain councilor with that party.

If Carrasco‘s family support for high turnout is eyeing a victory by PSOE in the general election, in the belief that PSOE would represent the best solution to terrorism, I am afraid such posing is erroneous.

The high turnout at the general election is important, and will only be useful if the resulting government takes the necessary measures to end the blackmailing, the terrorism and the intolerance that the Basque Country people is subjected to by ETA and its supporting environment.

Sadly, if the PSOE (socialist party) heads the next government, it will likely follow the strategy of the dialogue with ETA, already initiated by some of Carrasco‘s colleagues (PSOE members) in past 4 years. Dialogue with ETA helps only to validate their methods.

I can only hope the PSOE will come to realize that their strategy is flawed, and correct their course of action as soon as possible.

Terrorism in Elections

Tomorrow, March 9th 2008, Spain goes to the polls to elect a new government. Yesterday, March 7th, 2008, criminal band ETA killed a person, Isaías Carrasco, who had served as a Mondragon town councilor with the socialist party (PSE).

This latest victim of ETA had no bodyguards, for his term as councilor had ended some time ago. He was an easy target of the assassins, as could be any of us.

The timing of this killing is significant. They picked precisely a time two days before the general election in Spain to commit their latest crime. Some analysts suggest this is because ETA wants to state “here we are, and we have the capability to kill”. Some say that ETA did this simply because it’s all they know to do. However, I believe the timing was carefully chosen to fall precisely two days before the election, with the intention to influence voters.

Had they committed their crime several days before the election, the killing would not be as present in people’s minds at the time of the election. By doing it just two days before, they ensure it will have an impact on the election.

This is not to say that people (voters) are easily impacted. It is human nature to establish relationships between different events. Terrorism and ETA have been present themes during the campaign. Yesterday’s terrorist act is easily related to the campaign in people’s minds. Terrorists know this, and thus they choose the appropriate time to kill for the benefit of their interests.

The terrorists’ interest is that the current opposition party (PP) does not come into power. There are only two presidential candidates standing a chance to become the next Spanish PM: Mariano Rajoy (PP, currently in the opposition) and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (PSOE, current Spanish Prime Minister). Surely the terrorists would rather avoid both of them, but given the options, it’s far better for ETA to have Rodríguez Zapatero as Spanish Prime Minister again.

Rodríguez Zapatero has proved [1],[2],[3] during his 4-year term, that he is willing to concede something (however small it may be) to ETA in exchange for their surrender. In order words: killing and bombing pays off: you can achieve something by killing people and bombing the public, as long as the guy in power is Rodríguez Zapatero. ETA got the message, and they know that 4 more years of socialist government in Spain could allow them to continue to blackmail the government and obtain something in return. On the contrary, a government ruled by Mariano Rajoy would be on the way of ETA’s plans.

Then, why kill an ex-town councilor of the socialist party two days before the election? Does ETA think they can create among the population (voters) a sense of empathy for the socialist party, and thus increase the chance that the PSOE will receive more votes in tomorrow’s general election? Such theory seems far-fetched, but what other motivation could ETA have to kill at this precise time (two days before the election)?

The socialist government finally made a move several weeks ago by requesting the courts to declare ANV (the cover-up political party of ETA) illegal, according to the law. ANV was declared illegal, and will not be able to run in tomorrow’s general election. ETA might have killed in retaliation for that move, but why wait until this precise time?

In the recent (sad) history of Spain, whenever ETA has killed, the electoral derivative was an increase in votes for the Popular Party (PP). It would be strange that ETA seeks to move people to vote for PP. Other theories claim that because ETA lives on confrontation, they need a conflict to exist, and who better to have a conflict with than the Popular Party. If that were true, however, yesterday the chosen target of ETA would have been a member of the popular party.

Was Carrasco sadly chosen by ETA because other possible targets have bodyguard protection, or because of his affiliation with the socialist party to motivate a sense of empathy towards the PSOE that will help ETA during the next 4 years? We do not know, but while we all (except ETA and their party ANV) mourn yesterday’s death, let us hope that the next Government coming out of tomorrow’s election will take the necessary steps to bring the killers to justice (despite the joke justice in Spain) and to erode support for ETA to bring it to an end.