Politicians, the media and the public usually speak about several concepts, mixing them up, ultimately diverting attention from the real problems.
Basque nationalist politicians often talk about the “basque conflict.” For the average Spaniard this might be “the problem of ETA”, but it seems to refer rather to a sort of discrimination suffered by the Basque Country, not being a state in itself but part of another. It seems that this conflict never refers to frequent ETA blackmailing on Basque companies, which forced many people to emigrate from the Basque Country. Within the Basque Country, children are taught that the Spanish state oppresses the basque people, and in some cases, the killing of those who seek to deny the existence of such oppression is justified and defended. In the rest of Spain there is no belief of such oppression. However, the persistent message of nationalism, insisting that there is a conflict, has come to convince many people that there is a problem, and it needs a solution.
Such nationalist propaganda is joined by terrorist propaganda, which is present in every corner and in every moment of life of the Basque Country. In villages and towns there are posters calling to take part in demonstrations, rallies and picnics in defence of ETA prisoners, of course calling things by other names: “Basque people’s struggle”,”support for the fighters of basque people”, among other nonsense. There are hills displaying giant pictures painted on the rock with slogans in support of ETA prisoners (calling for their return to the Basque Country) on a map-silhouette of a region that includes Navarre, the French Basque Country and the Spanish Basque Country (for reference, Navarre and the Basque Country are 2 of the 17 autonomous regions of Spain, but are not a single political entity, as the terrorists propaganda shows). That picture, famous in the Basque Country, is also on banners hanging from multitude of balconies, shops entrances, and stickers everywhere. All these symbols, posters and messages make up constant brainwashing for the inhabitants of the Basque Country.
There is no doubt that the language that the rest of Spain used to refer to all of this (“terrorism”, “prisoners” and “brainwashing”) is likely seen by ETA, their followers, and probably many other people of the Basque Country, as a bunch of propagandist messages from the government of Spain and the media to mislead people, both in Spain and the Basque Country. Which is actually the false and manipulative message? No other than the one that comes from the intolerant and disrespectful “fighters of the people basque” (terrorists and their friends), who do not hesitate to resort to blackmail, destruction of public infrastructure, kidnapping, and murder.
Ultimately, all these problems have resulted in a much more serious one: the impossibility to speak openly and freely on any matter (mainly political) in the Basque Country, out of fear of threats, damage to your property, and even murder. No exaggeration in this statement: it has happened too many times.
Recently I have heard several people suggest an idea to solve the “problem” of the Basque Country, consisting on shelving the issue, and stop talking about it. I presume the purpose of this tactic is to ignore those who hold the “conflict” alive, curbing their publicity, thus undermining their popular support. It would also be a form of “forgetting” a matter for which there is no solution or possible agreement, according to advocates of this proposal. However, the “problem” or “conflict” to which they refer is never clearly identified: Is it the oppression of Spain? Is it the lack of independence? Is it the extortion of ETA on entrepreneurs? Is it the assassinations by ETA? Is it the lack of freedom of expression?
To stop talking is not the solution. To stop talking is precisely the problem. If everyone stops talking about the “problems” of the Basque Country, we will only succeed in eliminating the voices denouncing abuses, threats and violence. What is truly desirable and right is to able to talk about any matter, even when diametrically opposed positions exist, without either side having to fear for their integrity.
In fact this is what is lacking in the Basque Country. Problems are no longer publicly discussed, since long ago. This situation is accountable to ETA and its supporting environment: political basque parties ANV and PCTV, the basque party Aralar (which continues to support ANV-ETA), certain companies and financial institutions, and people who demonstrate on the streets in favour of ETA. Moreover, priceless help to keep this situation alive comes from political parties (like the basque PNV) which purposedly fail to enforce laws and court rulings against ETA, governments negotiating with murderers (PSOE), etc..
To stop talking about problems does not solve them; it simply hides them.
The “problem” (whichever of the above-mentioned list) will not be solved until schools are free from nationalistic propaganda and terrorist propaganda, and until people can say what they please, and can defend it in public without fear for their integrity, and without being subjected to the brainwashing propaganda that has disgracefully flooded daily life in the Basque Country for decades, and which remains in force today.