The legacy of Ernest Lluch, 20 years later

The former minister has always advocated dialogue as a way of resolving conflicts

It's been 20 years today since ETA murdered Ernest Lluch. The bullets thus silenced a very personal voice, that of a heterodox politician who was in love with Catalonia and the Basque Country and who had devoted the last years of his life to building bridges of dialogue and trying to find a solution to the Basque conflict. The citizens understood perfectly what ETA had tried to do by killing him: the terrorist organisation, which had already murdered other socialist politicians such as Juan María Jáuregui or Fernando Buesa, intended to dynamite any bridge, fracture Basque society and remove the possibility of any distension. That is why in the demonstration that filled Passeig de Gràcia on 23 November 2000 there were two words that appeared on almost every placard: peace and dialogue. That is to say, rejection of any form of violence and a commitment to dialogue as a method to solve conflicts of a political nature.

In a way, Lluch opened up a path that was later followed by Basque socialists like Jesús Eguiguren, who would play a key role in the peace process in the Basque Country and in the end of ETA. At that time, ETA was controlled by the hardest sector, which prolonged the agony a few more years, leaving a trail of death and destruction. In this sense, this assassination was a desperate attempt to stop what was already seen as irreversible: the cornering of ETA and its progressive loss of support. One single piece of information is very indicative. Just after the Lizarra truce, in the 1998 elections, the abertzale left won 224,000 votes and 14 seats. Three years later, at the height of the ETA offensive, their support fell to 143,000 votes and seven seats.

Finally, Lluch's theses prevailed and the three-way dialogue between the Spanish government, the abertzale left and ETA led to a definitive cessation of armed activity in 2011, and its definitive dissolution and surrendering its weapons in 2018. It has therefore been a decade since we woke up to the news of an assassination or car bomb attack, and the abertzale left is now a normalised political actor. And this, as Rosa Lluch underlines in an interview in this same newspaper, should be considered a success and not a failure, which is how some people in Madrid seem to want to see it.

Ernest Lluch, however, was much more than someone who wanted to do his bit in the difficult building of peace. He was the Minister of Health who laid the foundations for universal health care. He was an anti-Franco activist, founder of the Socialist Party of the Valencia (where he lived in the 1970s), spokesman for the PSC parliamentary group in Congress, rector of the Menéndez Pelayo International University in Santander, doctor of economics from the UB, author of dozens of monographs and articles, a professor esteemed by his students, a panellist coveted by the media for his clarity of presentation... Hate and barbarism took Lluch away from us 20 years ago, but his legacy and the memory of his special figure lives on.

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