Although his previous membership of the armed group made it difficult for him to openly reject the terrorist attacks, in the mid-nineties he became fully involved in the Gesto por la Paz (Gesture for Peace) movement. These activities led to the first threats from ETA. In 1999 he became a PSE town councillor of Zarautz. A few months later ETA set fire to the warehouse where he stored his work tools and his van and he got threatening graffiti messages.


Name: Patxi Elola Azpeitia

Age: 59 (1956)

Profession / Position: Gardener / PSE (Socialist Party of the Basque Country) town councillor of Zarautz

Family situation: Partner and son

Place of origin: Zarautz (Gipuzkoa).

GROUP: Threatened.


- Patxi Elola returned from exile in France in 1976 after being a member of political-military ETA or ETA (p-m) for two years. On his return to Zarautz he joined several political movements and he is still today a member of the PSE and a councillor for this party in his village.

- Although his previous membership of the armed group made it difficult for him to openly reject the terrorist attacks, in the mid-nineties he became fully involved in the Gesto por la Paz (Gesture for Peace) movement. These activities led to the first threats from ETA.

- In 1999 he became a PSE town councillor of Zarautz. A few months later ETA set fire to the warehouse where he stored his work tools and his van and he got threatening graffiti messages.

- Patxi Elola lived in fear for years with bodyguards because of these threats. Despite everything, he stood his ground and decided never to show weakness in public.


“I lived through the last Franco years at an age when I was conscious of things. My family had always been politically engaged, or let’s say nationalist, but left-wing socialist; the environment I was born in. In those final Franco years there were many important people´s movements and a lot of repression and some of us young people got involved in different groups just for the mere fact of fighting against the Franco dictatorship.  I was involved in anything that was going: the church youth, cultural organisations and also ETA.”
“I`ve always thought of myself as a freedom fighter. At that time I was an anti-Franco fighter and the organisation ETA was how I canalised this fight. This is why I had to go into exile, from 1974 until 1976. When ETA split, I took up with ETA (p-m). I came back from France as soon as I could. I didn’t want to continue being in ETA. I followed the same line as ‘Pertur’, who said that the Franco regime would end and that we had to get ready to fight from within organisations like political parties.  So therefore, in 1976 I returned to Zarautz and had to do military service.  Afterwards I was part of Euskal Iraultzarako Alderdia or EIA (Party for the Basque Revolution) in its initial beginnings and later in Euskadiko Ezkerra (Basque Country Left) until it merged with the Socialist Party where I still am.”
“It was very difficult for me to condemn ETA attacks, although I was in Euskadiko Ezkerra and not in the organisation itself. But a time came when, through Gesto por la Paz, I could get my condemnation into focus, towards the end of the eighties. I do admit that at first I stood at the back of those demonstrations; I was really very embarrassed. I was against the attacks but because I had been a member of ETA years before, it took a lot for me to openly condemn them.  I was part of the passive eighties society. But there came a time when I was on the front row because I understood that I should be at the front, carrying the banner, together with the others who had been members of ETA (p-m), when other counter-demonstrations stood opposite us.”
“The first threats and finger-pointing started precisely because I was one of Gesto por la Paz’s key leading activists in Zarautz, halfway through the nineties. Especially during the two years that we demonstrated with a banner every Monday against the kidnappings of Julio Iglesias, Aldaya and Ortega Lara. I felt more solidarity for the victims through these protests and you could say that I knew the people who demonstrated opposite us and they knew me. People from the nationalist left were much more annoyed by a person who condemned violence who had theoretically been one of them, although I was in a wing of ETA that had abandoned the use of violence.”
“I’ve always been a familiar face in the village because I’ve taken part in any sort of movement, whether it was to do with sports or cultural, social and NGOs…  I’ve always been active and I´ve never stayed at home. I started getting black looks because I was part of Gesto por la Paz.  This upset the nationalist left because they thought the streets were theirs and Gesto por la Paz took the place which had until then been theirs, because they had always used it. That’s why they stood opposite us in the counter-demonstrations. Everyone knew everybody and that was where the differences were marked and relationships were denied.”
“During this period you could feel the contempt of certain types of people because I took side with Gesto por la Paz. As a result my joining the party Euskadiko Ezkerra they also called me a ‘reformed terrorist’, because of how I’d changed, even people who had been part of my group of friends.  The nationalist left have always thought they were in possession of the truth and have never accepted other points of view.”
“They were difficult years because ETA had already killed some councillors. In Zarautz they had killed José Ignacio Iruretagoyena from the PP (People’s Party) and there was already pressure. In the electoral campaign that I won to become councillor, I remember that people like me from the Socialist Party who had come from Euskadiko Ezkerra were even more hated that the original socialists because we came from a nationalist background. They couldn´t understand how we could change or see situations differently. We were traitors in their eyes.”
“In June 1999 I started work as councillor in Zarautz for the Socialist Party which I was a member of since 1993 when it merged with Euskadiko Ezkerra. After four months in office, in the month of November I was the victim of an attack. They set fire to my warehouse, where I kept all the machinery, the van…. It was on the cards. They had it in for me. The graffiti started a few months later and they painted a human silhouette with blood coming out of its head. After all that, I started having a bodyguard, a year into being town councillor. I was one of the first councillors in the Socialist Party to have one.”
“The warehouse they destroyed was about 90 square meters in size. I think they used Molotov cocktails to destroy it because I had bottles and I had fuel in the warehouse. They burnt my machinery which was very valuable. I didn’t fix the warehouse because in time they were going to build houses where it was.  I didn’t want the new warehouse to be in view so I got an underground warehouse and I secretly kept things there. I also took more security measures.  It was very distressing for me and it also gave me the feeling they were after me.”
“I didn’t suffer any further attacks but I was singled out on the streets. Graffiti against me and posters appeared several times in the streets. During fiestas they distributed satirical posters with my face on them…..I was more afraid for my son than for myself because he might see the graffiti during the fiestas and it would affect him.  Or even my partner. I assumed that risk as far as possible but there was always that fear for my family. With my son, I’ve always tried to explain the truth to him when his age and ability to understand allowed it.”
“As a councillor and before the attack I was already afraid because I was a marked man. I felt the hatred towards me and more so because I was a councillor. The worst thing about that attack and the graffiti is the fear that gets inside you. It’s something that‘s not rational and you can only control it externally. I didn’t want anyone to think that they were getting the better of me through fear and that’s why I never showed it publically. I’ve never made declarations about backing down, but quite the opposite.  I’ve come to understand that to improve my situation, including my personal situation I have to cope and swallow all my fear.  A time came when if I had to leave home, I looked one way and then the other, I took all the precautions …and I was afraid.  There were alcoves in the entrance to our house and sometime I ran out in case there was someone there. I also changed timetables out of fear. Added to this was that during that period they had killed Fernando Buesa and his bodyguard,  Jorge Díez,  José Luís López de Lacalle, who used to come to dinner with us in Zarautz, as well as the PP councillor of  Durango,  Jesús María Pedrosa… I was very frightened and so I took steps.”
“When I began to have bodyguards the fear continued but this was eased because you assume they do their job and make you safe but for example Fernando Buesa also had a bodyguard, so the risk was always there. But it’s true that it calmed you down a bit because it somehow reduced the risk and ETA, who are not much of heroes, preferred easier targets than ones with protection. Fear meant that I never made any getaways although with time you become more relaxed because you can´t live like in a straightjacket with that lack of freedom. I remember that during the ceasefire in 2006 I did escape away more times.”
“The worst time for me was the weekends. My son was little and I used to go out with him. In order to do so, I had to make a plan a day earlier and it was very difficult because I didn’t know if we were going to go to the beach, to the mountains or going to play ball or something else. Everything had to be planned in advance so that the bodyguards could come, that before they came they had time to clear the area, check the bins, look at car number plates….. all of this needed time. If the weather was going to change and you changed the plan it meant waiting at least and hour and a half to leave the house. That’s why in order to switch off, I went away a lot of weekends with my family to places where I could do things that I couldn´t in Zarautz and it gave me some fresh air.”
“As far as my life in the village is concerned I haven´t felt particularly isolated, although I do have some negative tales connected with me having bodyguards. For example, I am a gardener and there was a group of neighbours who cancelled my services. They never said why, but some neighbours did after some time. Also my bodyguards reported one of my neighbours for insulting them. But in general, I’ve not noticed any rejection towards me in Zarautz, other than hatred towards me from the nationalist left. ”
“The most difficult thing for me has been my domestic situation with my son when he was little.  We’ve been in situations when we´ve had to grab him by the hand to quickly get out of some park when he was playing because the bodyguards told us to leave quickly when they saw people from the nationalist left, for example in demonstrations. They were very tense moments when you just got the kid and left. For security reasons, I couldn’t pick up my son from class every day at the same place; routines had to be varied.  With so many changes, a time came when my son was bewildered because he didn’t understand the situation.  The only option we had left was for my wife to stop working and she did, to take care of the child and give him the peace and security that he wouldn´t have had otherwise. This also meant that we had one wage less in our pockets. The effect on the family members of us victims or those who have suffered pressure are hardly known about but I passed on my pain and experiences to my son, my partner and my parents. There were a lot of small things that made my life and that of those around me very difficult.”
“A result of the entire threatening situation was that I had to take medication. There was a time when I had nightmares, I couldn’t sleep. In those dreams I thought they were going to kill me. Then in real life I was more rational and although I did think that they could kill someone, I didn’t think that my name was on all the cards. That’s why I needed psychological help and treatment for just over a year.  This changes your character, it makes you bitterer. They’re very bad feelings. And then you have to go out and look normal. The mere fact of looking strong could be an act of strength for those who saw that they weren’t going to get anywhere with pressurising and threatening methods. I don’t know how long I could have managed like that. I feel like a survivor. I took steps and put mechanisms in place through the police to be a survivor. There are some that can’t say what happened to them.”
“I’ve always been quite positive. With the ceasefire in 2006 I already noticed less pressure; there had been fewer attacks. Also ETA had declared that they weren’t going to attack people in public office anymore, although on the other hand, they threatened Patxi López’s Basque Government. There was a contradiction in their message but my positive side made me psychologically calmer. I felt relaxed, more relaxed although I was still cautious. I started one of my favourite hobbies again that I had had to stop, which was going to the mountains. ”
“When some media company called to ask what I thought about the declaration that afterwards ETA would make about ceasing armed activity, my answer was that I was going out for a walk. I was going to continue as I was, that declaration didn’t impress me and didn’t mean anything to me, unlike the expectations that I had about the 2006 ceasefire. Then I thought that everything was going to stop and then the attack in Madrid airport which ended that ceasefire was a like a jug of cold water. This time I was very sceptical in the beginning and I wasn’t very hopeful. But it did change my life and one year later I could get rid of the bodyguards because I didn’t need them. ETA was no longer a danger and the only thing that could happen to me would be run-in with some radical. But with time I’m getting over that fear, although I do happen to have had a run-in with one.”
“I believe that there is a big split in the nationalist left between those who think that they have made a big mistake by supporting violence and regret it and those who haven`t but have only changed their position because of the circumstances. I’ve no problem with a relationship with someone who is aware that what they have done is wrong. It’s possible to collaborate with these people and work on a series of things although we are ideologically different. But a lot of people think that what has been done is ok”
“In addition to the attack and the threats I received from ETA, previously, when I belonged to ETA,  I was attacked twice by the extreme right, by the  Batallón Vasco Español (Basque Spanish Battalion) or BVE and  Antiterrorismo ETA (Anti-terrorism ETA) or ATE.  This is something that I never find the right moment to talk about but not because I’ve got something to hide.”
“When we were in the French Basque Country, as young people, I was doing training courses, in the times of ‘Pertur’ in 1975. We were in some farmhouses situated a few kilometres away from Bayonne and we went to that city to a demonstration against the trial that ended with the execution by firing squad of ‘Txiki’ and Otaegi. On the way back to the farmhouses they fired a hail of machine gun bullets at us and two of us had bullet wounds. One was the driver but he was quick to react and stopped in the ditch so we could all escape. It could have been the end”.
“The other attack was on June 12 in 1975, on an association that was in San Jean de Luz called Anai Artea, which was run by Telesforo Monzón and Juan José Etxabe. At that time, Anai Artea was a house where all the money sent by the Basques in South America was managed. In that house, us members of political-military ETA had courses and there were also people living there. We went there every afternoon and there was one day that the course was cancelled but we were in the house. They put a bomb there which exploded while we were on the other side of the house which was completely destroyed. The room where we used to meet didn’t fall down then but the room where we had the courses did.”
“After that, when I heard any sort of noise I threw myself to the ground. They hadn’t gone after me personally but they had gone after some refugees.  It really frightened me. When the Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación  (Anti-terrorist Liberation Groups) or GAL attacks started here I remember I used to tremble. I suffered a lot with the GAL attacks as well as condemning them. I was afraid because they reminded me of those attacks, and there were more like them and they caused deaths on the other side of the border. It was a way of fighting terrorism with terrorism.”