About whitewashing and other misused verbs

It was 1991.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
15 September 2023 Friday 04:20
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About whitewashing and other misused verbs

It was 1991. I was 17 years old. ETA murdered ten people, five of them children, by exploding a car bomb in the Vic barracks house. The next day, while the funeral was being held, two of the perpetrators of the crime were killed by the Civil Guard in a chalet in Lliçà d'Amunt. I don't need to Google to remember their names. Juan Félix Erezuma and Joan Carles Monteagudo. I also remember that of Francisco Mújica Garmendia, José Luis Urrusolo Sistiaga, Domingo Troitiño, Santiago Arróspide. I am from the generation that grew up with ETA posters at bus stations.

Indelible from the Vic attack are the hug between two bloodied civil guards and the running of a man carrying an injured girl. In that state of shock, many of us almost celebrated the death of the two ETA members. “It's not good for you to react out of hatred,” my father told me. Four years earlier, the Hipercor attack (21 murdered) marked several generations.

One of my first journalistic jobs was participating in research for a series on the history of ETA. I was commissioned by the documentary filmmaker Joan González, who gave me the opportunity to work with Xavier Vinader, investigative journalist and symbol of freedom of expression. In 1980, ETA murdered two far-rightists mentioned by Vinader in an article. He was tried and sentenced to seven years in prison for “reckless professional imprudence resulting in two murders.” He went into exile, suffered ultra attacks, returned, spent two months in prison, and was pardoned by the government of Felipe González. If there had been Twitter, Vinader would have been the great whitewasher of the time. For many of us he was a reference. That series about ETA never saw the light of day.

ETA has been very present throughout my professional life. I have interviewed a repentant ETA member; to Jesús Eguiguren, the negotiator with ETA who announced the end of the organization to us; two special programs coinciding with the final truce; the interview in Txillarre with Arnaldo Otegi. I have also interviewed a GAL gunman, former Minister José Barrionuevo and former Secretary of State Rafael Vera, convicted for their involvement in the dirty war against ETA.

More than three years ago we started working with Màrius Sánchez to interview Josu Urrutikoetxea, Josu Ternera. The leader of ETA is the living testimony who knows the most about the terrorist organization, its wildest years and also its end. It was a hard, harsh, tense conversation with him, and with undeniable journalistic and historical value.

During the interview, the ETA leader hears terms that are unusual in his vocabulary: murder, mafia, attack, cynicism. He is reminded of horrible passages of his organization, with archival images that I am not sure he had seen before. And, to give an example, when asked if he remembered what happened on June 19, 1987, the name Hipercor did not come to mind.

Five years ago Urrutikoetxea announced the dissolution of ETA. Today there are kids who don't know who Miguel Ángel Blanco was. I assure you that with our documentary (at the San Sebastián Festival) many young people will discover that not so long ago in Spain a car bomb could explode in the parking lot of a supermarket, or in a barracks house, or they could shoot someone in the never. to a councilor from any town. It will be very clear to them who that young politician from Ermua was, and until his murderer was Francisco Javier García Gaztelu, alias Txapote, whom they may have even chanted without knowing who he was. Is that really whitewashing? Are we still like this?