Do or Die

An article from Do or Die Issue 6. In the paper edition, this article appears on page(s) 102-103.

Ecology in Euskadi

Battles in the Basque Country

Daniel Unziti Condemned to Three Years in Prison

Daniel Unziti, from the village of Itoiz, has been condemned to a three year prison sentence in connection with acts against the construction of the dam near his village.

As you know (see the Earth First Action Update May 1996 and Undercurrents #6), in April '96, activists sabotaged the construction of the Itoiz dam in the Basque Country to brilliant effect.

Using circular saws, they were able to cut the steel cables needed to transport concrete to the dam wall, thereby forcing the authorities to abandon the project, at least for the time being. [And who says direct action doesn't work?!] Eight of the people who participated in the action were imprisoned, but were later released thanks to impressive mobilisations in support of them.

Although Dani didn't take part in the original action, he and another campaigner, Patxi Gorraiz, were tried on the 11th of October. They were arrested after a march against the dam which went to the construction site to give a letter of disagreement to the construction company. After a lorry drove over the demonstrators, the security guards and the police began shooting live ammunition and charging against them. People panicked and some of them started throwing stones in retaliation. No one was arrested at the time, but a few days later both Dani and Patxi were arrested in conection with the demonstration.

The coincidence is that both are members of the only two families who still live in Itoiz, and are known anti-dam activists. Patxi was sentenced to two years and Dani to three. Dani is also liable for military service and has a previous "criminal" record for resisting conscription - therefore he has to remain in prison for longer.

As you may know, the anti-conscription movement ('Insumision') is very strong in the Spanish State, and especially so in the Basque region [for obvious reasons]. Around 500 people are jailed every year for refusing conscription.

In Dani's words: "I am completely innocent. It's not possible for anyone to be in two places at the same time. My only crime is to be 'insumiso' [that is, to refuse the draft] and consequent with my ideas, to be against the militarisation of Itoitz and of the whole world, to be from Itoitz and to defend peacefully the right to live in the house and land of my ancestors."

Since the day of the hearing there have been mobilisations for Dani and the other imprisoned 'insumisos', and against the dam. On the day of the hearing itself two people went up onto the roof of the court and hung a banner in solidarity with Patxi and Dani. They were evicted with cherry pickers and arrested. After this no demonstration was allowed by the police. For Christmas, a tree house was set up in front of the prison in Pamplona where Dani remains imprisoned. The sentence is three years. He'll be glad to hear of your solidarity:

Daniel Unziti
Iruneako Gartzela
San Roque Kalea z/g
Irunea-Pamplona (State of Spain)

The Campaign Against the HST Continues

The environmentalists of the Basque Country haven't forgotten the fight against the destructive project of the 'High Speed Train', which will affect both French and Spanish sides of the border. After the summer the campaigners organized a camp protest in Anoeta (Gipuzkoa), and a very successful demonstration of about three thousand people in Donostia (San Sebastian) on the 16th of January (again, check out Undercurrents #6 if you want to see some of the actions against it). Now they are waiting to see how things develop before they take the next step forwards.

As with previous enviromental struggles, the project threatens to do huge damage to the Basque enviroment, and mainly in areas which, because it's so mountainous, have remained intact up till now. The HST needs a flat and straight surface in order to reach the speeds of 150-250mph that it requires. This means building tunnels, slicing up mountains and filling in the valleys: one tunnel of 5 miles, one of 4 miles, three of more than 2 miles, as well as 55 bridges.

It will create the same effect as the Irunea-Donostia (Pamplona-San Sebastian) motorway: that is, destruction all the way through previously untouched lands. The HST will need a completely new railway network: a total of 310 kilometers of new railways in the Basque Country, without using the pre-existing network. It will need safety lighting all along the railway of around 25,000 volts. This voltage exceeds the electro-magnetic field our health is able to cope with (imagine what it will do to animals, especially nocturnal ones). The HST also produces huge vibrations and noise on its way. In such a wilderness area, its speed will also have a terrible effect on the local fauna.

As with all expansions of development, the HST has a clear link with other forms of enviromental destruction. The HST is very closely linked to nuclear power, because it needs a huge amount of energy to reach that high speed.

But we know who gets the benefit: as in the UK with the motorways, it is the big construction companies. You can imagine the budget for a project like this, which is starting from scratch. The cost was initially put at 3,500 million, but you can be sure that when [if !] it actually comes to be built, it will be three or four times as much.

Do or Die DTP/web team: