Translation of Juan Alcorta’s open letter

Taken from page 5 of Diario Vasco, 29th April 1980

Like so many fellow citizens of the most varied class and condition, I have received the letter from ETA demanding, under threat of death, the payment of what they consider to be a ‘revolutionary tax’

Before any other, the first feeling I had was a deep bitterness. The bitterness of a person who feels that he is the victim of a serious injustice.

But that is not the end of the anguish of this situation, since that bitterness is aggravated by the impression of helplessness and defenselessness in which one finds oneself.

I have thought long and hard before making a decision and have tried to do so as calmly as possible and by weighing up as many factors as I thought might have some influence on it.

I find the idea of having to pay to save your life revolting, of giving in to the absolute fear of dying. I’m not a hero, I don’t want to be. I know that with this decision I’m endangering the years I have left to live. But there is something in my conscience, in my way of being, that I prefer anything to give in to blackmail, which is destroying my land, my people and my country. We have always said that we Basques are not cowards. And as a good Basque, I do not want to be a coward.

I have four alternatives in the face of the threat that is literally stated in the paragraph I copy from the letter:

“Therefore, before 22 April, you must contact Mr XX in the Basque media in San Juan de Luz, Biarritz or Bayonne, to whom you will give XX million pesetas in used notes with discontinuous numbering or, failing that, in French francs, the equivalent of the amount. If you don’t deliver on time, we’ll search you out and execute you.”

The alternatives I have left are:

One: Pay up and go on living (for now).

Second: Negotiate, beg and get a discount through the intermediaries 

Third: Run away.

Fourth: Not to pay, not to negotiate, not to run away and to continue living (a lot or a little, I don’t know), although with undoubted anguish, obviously.

I have decided on the fourth. But I have decided to do something else. I have decided to make my attitude public and to this end I am writing to the newspapers “Egin, El Diario Vasco”, “Deia “El Correo Espanol”, “La Gaceta del Norte”, “Norte Express” and “El Diario de Navarra I think that in exchange for my delicate situation, I can provide a service to the Basque Country.

I do not think that this can be considered petulance on my part, nor that I am trying to make a personal problem public, since it is well known that this situation has already reached several thousand BasquesThis is what has made me think that we are facing a public problem and, moreover, one of extreme gravity. I would say that ETA’s action is the most serious problem facing the Basque people, to which I belong by all means and which I love very much.

And faced with a problem of this nature, I believe that something more than the silence of the victims and the inhibition of others is needed.

Of course, I have the utmost respect for all the personal attitudes of those who have chosen any of the other alternatives. But I find it more difficult to understand the inhibition of an entire community in the face of such a serious and increasingly widespread problem. I cannot think that the Basque people are passively contemplating the proliferation of this system of extortion by a collective cowardice.

I believe that this inhibition is the result of a lack of orientation. In fact, the whole community must collaborate in solving this deep-rooted problem, but to do so it must be properly oriented and directed.

And I would dare to say that not only is it not adequately oriented, but it is also being sorted out. I think that the Basque people are being distracted by problems of a secondary nature, without ignoring the fact that there are other very serious problems with difficult solutions.

I do not want to fall into the presumption of trying to give lessons to anyone, so I am simply expressing my concern. I trust that the constitution of the Basque Parliament and Government will serve to deal with these problems adequately.

As for the content of the letter I have received, it hardly deserves any comment. The only accusation made against me in it is that I am a bourgeois. It will be so if ETA says so, which, in my opinion, is not a crime.

In any case, this alleged bourgeoisie does not seem to have gone to my head. I still have the same friends from 30 years ago and my children, who have previously known this letter, live just like any of my employees.

I am not the one to make an assessment of my personality. I will only say that I have lived fundamentally dedicated to work and those who know me can testify to that. Because the employer, at least a genuine one, I think, is the one who works the most.

It is curious, however, that those who address this letter to me, after making such a “serious” accusation as that of being a bourgeois. Instead of imposing a punishment on me, they draw the consequence that I must purge my crime by giving them money.

I don’t understand this form of administering justice. And of course, they end up telling me that if I don’t hand over the money, I will be sought out and executed, after a date, which has already expired. In other words, they put a price on my right to live and I have to buy it.

In short, I am on the list in which, if the worst happens, it will be possible to say, without failing to be truthful, that phrase which for so many people in this country serves to explain or almost justify every violent death: “I was threatened.”

ETA: I will continue to live as I have always lived. You will see me in the companies where I am responsible. You will see me in Atocha applauding la Real. You will see me at a game of pelota. You will see me in some popular society having dinner, happy, with my friends But perhaps with a gesture of sadness and tiredness that I didn’t have until now. That you already have achieved.

So, you won’t have to look for me, as you say in the letter. I think I must go on with my normal life, so perhaps, and unfortunately for me, it will be very easy for you to find me.

Allow me to say goodbye to you without hatred or rancor, in the hope that one day you will be part of an authentic people and that you will reveal your faces without fear.

Despite my anguish, I still have faith in the future of the Basque people. I will continue to put stone upon stone in the common building as long as it is alive. And if you take it away from me, may God forgive you.

Juan ALCORTA MAIZ. Chairman of KOIPE, S.A., Chairman of SAVIN, S.A. BODEGAS CAMPO VIEJO, Chairman of BANKOA (BANCO INDUSTRIALOF GUIPUZCOA).