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Mas joins Ibarretxe in San Sebastian: "Spain is attacking us"

Basque ex-president urges former president of Catalonia to continue the climb "right to the summit"

The former lehendakari [president of the Basque government] Juan José Ibarretxe and the former Catalan president, Artur Mas participated in a ceremony this evening in favour of the right to decide, organised by the Agirre Lehendakaria Center, the research centre which Ibarretxe chairs, and Gure Esku Dago, a grassroots group. Before the 1,800 people who filled the Donostia Kursaal Congress Centre and Auditorium, both former presidents agreed to continue working to achieve the right to decide.

"Spain is attacking us", declared Artur Mas. He went on to say that this "aggression" is occurring "in the form of a reconquest of powers" that began in 2000 when José María Aznar was president of the Spanish government. According to Mas, Aznar’s term in office brought the beginning of the loss of certain powers which had been achieved thanks to successive home-rule Statutes. Mas declared that the "onslaught" is also taking place in the form of the "judicialization of politics" which began in 2010, when Spain’s Constitutional Court (TC) struck down certain articles of the Catalan Statute which had been voted on by the Catalan parliament and also approved by Spain’s Congress. Mas also denounced the "dirty war" which took place under Operation Catalonia, "which is not an economic agreement, but rather an operation carried out by instruments of the State, employing illegal means, in an attempt to discredit Catalan leaders". "We must respond to this aggression", he said. Artur Mas, whose words were warmly received by the audience, stated that "the key to success is political unity and rallying together. We will spare no effort and we must all unite".

Ibarretxe, who addressed the audience before Mas, told the former president of Catalonia that "if the right to decide runs aground, it’ll be because it’s run aground in Catalonia or the Basque Country. It will not be because it’s run aground in Madrid or Brussels." The former president of the Basque country focused his speech on defending the democratic principle behind the right to decide. “Referendums are not held in order to win them but, rather, to exercise democracy", Ibarretxe declared. In this regard, he said that the referendum in the UK was extremely positive for the Scots, even though those in favour of independence did not win: "Scotland did not gain its independence. However, it gained the possibility of holding one [a referendum] when it wishes, and it won the respect of the United Kingdom and the world". Ibarretxe reminded his audience that he also tried to hold a referendum for the Basque people. "We got as far as Camp Two. You’re at Camp Three", Ibarretxe declared, adding: "Now you have to decide whether to continue on up Everest or to go home to Kathmandu".

During the event a feeling of solidarity between the two regions was apparent at all times. Ibarretxe recalled a phrase by the first Basque lehendakari, José Antonio Aguirre: "Our people will always stand by Catalonia".

The organizers had initially planned to hold the event in a much smaller auditorium which holds 200 people. Because of the interest it generated, they decided to use a much larger venue, which was filled to capacity. The audience included other political leaders, such as Arnaldo Otegi and Francesc Homs.

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