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.


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