Maixabel Lasa

Maixabel Lasa Iturrioz (Legorreta, Guipúzcoa, 1951) is a Spanish activist and politician advocating for coexistence in the Basque Country. She served as the director of the Victims of Terrorism Office of the Basque Government from 2001 to 2012. She was the widow of Juan María Jáuregui, a Basque politician from the PSE who was assassinated by ETA. She was one of the first victims to meet with her husband’s killers in prison.

Biography Early Political Involvement In the 1970s, she began her political involvement in the PCE-EPK alongside her husband Juan María Jáuregui. In the 1980s, she joined the Basque Socialist Party (PSE-PSOE).

Victim of Terrorism In 2000, ETA assassinated her husband Juan María Jáuregui (PSOE). Lasa lost her partner of 25 years, who had been her inspiration since she was 16 years old, and with whom she shared a daughter named María.

Equal Attention to Victims In December 2001, she was appointed as the director of the Victims of Terrorism Office of the Basque Government, presided over by Juan José Ibarretxe (PNV). She held this position continuously for three terms, spanning eleven years. Her appointment was met with great respect by all political forces and affected groups. Still, there were uncertainties about how to steer the direction of the department after the Lizarra Pact and ETA’s resumption of violence in 1999. Alongside Txema Urkijo, they had to gain the trust of the victims to initiate a new phase in reintegration and reconciliation policies between victims and perpetrators, which proved to be very successful.

Her decision, from the Basque Government, to provide equal attention to victims of all forms of violence, whether caused by ETA, the GAL, or police abuses, made her the target of criticism from some victim organizations and political parties.

Restorative Meetings She participated in the restorative justice project of the Nanclares pathway, meetings that emerged from the request of some ETA prisoners who wanted to meet with victims. In 2011, Lasa received a request from Luis Carrasco, one of the three killers of her husband. Lasa has always advocated for second chances and believed that there was no better way to put her principles into practice. She realized that these individuals genuinely felt the harm they had caused and were remorseful. In 2014, Ibon Etxezarreta also requested to meet with her. In 2021, Patxi Makazaga asked to meet with Lasa.

The restorative meetings began in 2011, with a total of 14 held discreetly. They became publicly known in 2012 when they were completed, as the Popular Party obstructed their continuation.

Exit from the PSE In 2020, Lasa resigned from the PSE-EE after being disciplined by the party for supporting Txema Urkijo of Más País. She lamented that the socialists confused a personal relationship with politics.

“Maixabel” Film Lasa describes Iciar Bollain’s film “Maixabel” (2021) as a tribute to the need for coexistence among all people, living among differences while respecting each other, and a denunciation of the use of violence. The film showcases the restorative meetings, as many people were unaware of them, and there were many misconceptions over the years.

“With violence, you achieve absolutely nothing. What you have to achieve is things in a different way, through education, by listening to your neighbor, and by solving the problems we face every day, primarily by using words.”

Collaborations “The End of ETA” (2017), a Spanish documentary film directed by Justin Webster. “The Basque Ball: Skin Against Stone” (2003), a documentary from 2003 directed by Julio Medem. Documentary “Zubiak” (“Bridges” in Spanish), the first episode of the Movistar+ series “ETA: El Final del Silencio.” [Publication] “Víctimas y política penitenciaria. Claves, experiencias y retos de futuro” (Ed. Catarata, 2019).

Awards and Recognitions 2009 López de Lacalle Foundation Award for her “valuable and tireless work in defense of freedom, democratic values, and tolerance.” 2013 National Human Rights Award from the Association for Human Rights in Spain for her dialogue efforts between former ETA members and their victims. 2015 Joan XXIII Memorial Award for her work in promoting dialogue among different actors related to violence in the Basque Country.