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4 November 1999 Edition

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HB to boycott Spanish elections

On Saturday 30 October, during a meeting of 3,839 delegates of the Basque pro-independence left-wing coalition Herri Batasuna, it was decided not to contest the Spanish general election, scheduled for April 2000. The decision was supported by 83% of delegates, representing 180 local groups from Hegoalde (the area of the Basque Country under Spanish rule). The move reflects a new general movement towards political autonomy in the Basque Country.

HB national executive spokesperson Arnaldo Otegi, explaining the decision, said that Herri Batasuna ``does not want to avail of rights granted by the Spanish and French governments'' which the party considerers a ploy to suppress pro-independence feeling in Euskal Herria (the Basque Country).

Otegi said the party believes it has to lead the way to the creation of national institutions for the six provinces of Euskal Herria, now divided between three different administrations under the Spanish and French states. The party now intends to challenge the ``legal frameworks imposed by France and Spain''.

Otegi said that the party will call on supporters not to vote in this election as a way ``to gain sovereignity for the Basque people.

``We want to implement our political right to vote and elect a Basque national parliament and a Basque national government for the whole of Euskal Herria. We want to open a debate in relation to the creation of the necessary institutions for Basque democracy.''

Since the Basque nationalist parties signed the Lizarra-Garazi Agreement, followed by the Basque armed organisation Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) ceasefire in September 1998, the political situation has been transformed. In the years beforehand, responsibility for the resolution of the conflict rested with ETA's negotiations with the Spanish government. Now, under the Lizarra-Garazi Agreement, it is recognised that it is up to Basque political parties, social groups and society as a whole to decide the future of the Basque Country.

On 18 September 1999, Udalbiltza (a union of town councils) was set up by local elected representatives, the first Basque national political institution in centuries, with the backing of 1,800 Basque councillors and mayors.

Karmelo Landa, a member of Herri Batasuna's National Executive, sees Udalbiltza as an institution ``that will allow all Basque people to express and act according to their political will - the first step towards a Basque national parliament and government.''

Burma



The Freedom of the City of Dublin has been conferred on Aung San Suu Kyi, 1991 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and leader of Burma's National League for Democracy, who is still under virtual house arrest in Burma for her opposition to that country's military dictatorship.

Brazil



Maria Dorcelina Salvador, mayor of the village of Mundo Novo in the Mato Grosso del Sur state in Brazil and representative of the Movement of Those Without Land (MST), was murdered on Monday, 1 November. Police suspect that the reason behind the killing could be her involvement in a nationwide investigation into drug trafficking. Maria Dorcelina, a wheelchair user who was elected with 85% of the votes for the town council, suffered continuous harassment and threats during the electoral campaign.

MST was formed by destitute land labourers and its main aim is to secure land reform to allow them a fair share of agricultural resources.

Uruguay



Following a trend of success for left-wing parties in South American elections over the past two years, the left-wing coalition Encuentro Progresista-Frente Amplio became the leading political movement in Uruguay on Sunday, 31 October, winning 38.5% of votes in the first round of the country's general elections. The movement's leader, Tabaré Vázquez, will now take on Jorge Batlle of the governing Colorado Party in a run-off for president.

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