1 Jul, 2023 @ 13:30
3 mins read

‘Get Txapote to vote for you’: The slogan about ETA that is plaguing the prime minister and victims alike in Spain

A man on TVE proffers insults to Spain's prime minister
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“QUE TE vote Txapote.” Roughly translated: Get Txapote to vote for you. This seemingly innocent Spanish phrase, which is nice and catchy thanks to its rhyme, is causing an ongoing headache for Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, and pain for the victims of terrorism. But who is Txapote? And who came up with the slogan that has dominated the ongoing electoral campaigns in Spain?

The slogan first appeared on September 3, 2022, when Sanchez was making a visit to the neighbourhood of Pino Montano. While he was received warmly by supporters, the Socialist Party leader was also confronted by a group of protestors, who whistled, jeered and proffered insults.

Among the group was an older, portly gentleman, who was carrying a sign above his head with the now-immortal words: “Que te vote Txapote”.

Txapote’s real name is Francisco Javier Garcia Gaztelu, and he is a convicted terrorist from the now-defunct Basque group ETA. Aged 57, he is currently serving a 152-year prison sentence for his crimes, which include some of the most shocking murders during ETA’s decades-long bloody campaign for an independent Basque Country. 

Among these was the killing of Miguel Angel Blanco in 1997. Blanco was a local councillor for the conservative Popular Party in the small municipality of Ermua. He was kidnapped by ETA, who demanded that their prisoners be brought to jails in the Basque Country, closer to their families, in exchange for Blanco’s release.

The then-PP government of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar refused to negotiate, and on July 12, 1997 Blanco was shot twice in the head and left to die. 

The kidnapping and the murder shocked Spain, and galvanised social rejection of ETA and its bloody campaign. In fact, more than 500,000 people turned out to a demonstration in Bilbao while Blanco was still alive and being held by ETA, a phenomenon that was repeated in several other parts of Spain. 

The Sanchez connection

So what does Txapote have to do with Pedro Sanchez?

The reason why the slogan works, and why it has stuck, is to do with the political deals that the prime minister has had to make over the last nearly four years of his government. 

After the inconclusive elections of 2019, Sanchez formed a government with junior coalition partner Unidas Podemos (United We Can), but the administration still lacked a working majority in Congress. 

As a result, to pass legislation – including the all-important budget – Sanchez has done deals to gain the support of a series of smaller parties, including EH Bildu, which is the former political wing of ETA. 

This has caused huge controversy among victims associations, as well as opening up a political flank where the opposition can attack him – and also gave rise to the now-infamous phrase, ‘Que te vote Txapote’.

EH Bildu is a legitimate political party, but its history and its often-timid condemnation of ETA violence means it is anathema for parties such as the PP and Vox. 

The appearance of the slogan at the demonstration in Seville prompted hundreds of column inches in Spanish newspapers, and it became a regular phrase used on social media. 

It gained further traction on January 25, when a man who was being interviewed on a news show on state broadcaster TVE about a speed camera issue suddenly started shouting it and proffering a series of insults against Pedro Sanchez. 

It has also been seized upon by far-right party Vox, and members of the PP. The regional premier of the Madrid region, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, cited the slogan during a debate in the Madrid assembly as a way of criticising the Socialist Party. 

In the run up to the snap general election on July 23, Pedro Sanchez has been making a number of media appearances. During one of these, on La Sexta on Sunday evening, he spoke about the slogan.

“It’s evil, it’s making use of the suffering of the victims without scruples nor principles,” he said. “It’s putting the PSOE and I in a position that bears no relation to our history.”

And ETA victims are equally unhappy about it. 

“The victims deserve to be treated with RESPECT,” wrote Consuelo Ordoñez on Twitter. Her brother, Gregorio Ordoñez, was killed by ETA, and she now heads up the Covite victims association.

“Using a hashtag to trivialise the murder of so many innocent people, including my brother Gregorio Ordoñez, shows a lack of principles and how unimportant we are to her. Not like this, Ms Diaz Ayuso!” she said, after Ayuso used the phrase in the Madrid assembly.

Ordoñez was equally critical when members of the Nuevas Generaciones youth wing of the PP posed for a photo wearing t-shirts with the slogan. She was backed up by Ruben Mugica, whose father, lawyer Fernando Mugica, was also killed by ETA. 

As for the man who carried the sign with the first use of the phrase, no one has been able to track him down. But sources who spoke to online daily El Confidencial said that he does have links to Vox. 

Whoever he was, he has created a slogan that has likely done untold damage to Pedro Sanchez and his electoral hopes. As was stated by Pablo Iglesias, the former deputy prime minister and founder of leftist party Podemos, ‘the phrase has won the elections’.

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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