Basque country's nightmare

It is 42 years since ETA was founded. Only a total lack of political knowledge could make someone say that
nothing has changed in the Basque Country since then.
I share the views of most experts that Franco's Regime and its repressive way to impose a homogeneous Spain
was the main cause for the rising of the terrorist band. However, we cannot forget that we now live in a
completely different situation. And most important of all, although most Basque citizens have known and
suffered from Franco's Dictatorship, only a minority supports or justifies ETA's violence.
This reports includes a brief background of ETA, an objective explanation of the current situation in the
Basque Country and a descriptive enumeration of the most significant news that have been published in the
British newspapers about the terrorist band during March 2001.
ETA: abbreviation of EUSKADI TA ASKATASUNA (Basque Homeland and Liberty).
ETA is a Basque separatist organisation in Spain that adopted violent methods in its campaign for an
independent Basque state.
ETA grew out of the PNV (Basque Nationalist Party) and managed to survive, though illegally, under
Francisco Franco's fascist regime by maintaining its headquarters in exile in Paris and keeping quietly out of
sight in Spain.
In 1959, some youth members of PNV broke away and founded ETA. Within the next few years, the new
organisation developed groupings associated increasingly with Marxist positions, setting revolutionary
socialism as their political orientation.
Factionalism continued inside ETA in the 1970s and `80s, with various internal divisions into both violent and
political groups. After Franco's death in 1975, Spain's democratic governments moved to establish regional
autonomy for the Basque provinces. PARADOJICAMENTE, the political party which has remained in office
since then is the PNV.
In the decade after Franco, the number of ETA killings by bombing and assassinations multiplied by ten over
what had existed under Franco's ironhanded repression. Most of the assassinated were high−ranking Spanish
military officers, judges, and government officials, such as Carrero Blanco, Spanish former Prime Minister in
1973, who was killed by a car bomb.
ETA has been financially supporting its terrorist activities with robberies, kidnappings and revolutionary taxes
extorted from, mainly, Basque businessmen.
It formed political front organisations to face and contest elections in the post−Franco period while also
continuing with bloody campaigns to achieve its goals. Currently, ETA's political wing is EH (Euskal
Erritarrok) and is supported by around the 18% of the Basque society.
Both, Spanish and Basque policemen, have done a great job in the last years capturing and jailing ETA's
leaders, but the violent band has remained active until the present mainly due to the recruitment of new
rebellious young attracted by the independence cause. Nowadays, ETA has got two youth wings: Haika and
Jarrai, whose 4000 members are aged 15−25, approximately.
Politicians, journalists, judges, businessmen, soldiers and policemen have all suffered the effects of the
violence of ETA in Euskadi (Basque Homeland) and a wave of pessimism has begun to take hold. The
national mood in Spain is grim.
Hundreds of thousands of citizens, in the Basque Country or far from it, parade their rejection and repulse to
ETA in the streets after the almost successive violent and bloody terrorist's episodes; more than 3000 people
in the Basque Country have received death threats and can no longer go their daily lives without armed
bodyguards; among the Basque society, and specially among youth, a feeling of odium and hostility is
increasing steady day after day; though the PNV (Basque National Party) is still the largest party in the
assembly, it has been in minority to govern, which has led to the sign of notorious and controversial deals
with the terrorist group through its political wing EH (Euskal Herritarrok), such as the Pact of Lizarra; anyone
who speaks out against the separatists or opposes the cause of independence risks becoming an ETA's target.
These are nothing but just a few examples of the extremely deep−rooted climate of confrontation that exits in
the Basque society nowadays.
The biggest difference, though, is political. If we have a look at the Spanish's recent History, only a third of
Basque Country voters backed Spain's new Constitution in 1978. Moreover, essential factors such as the
existence of political autonomy in the region, their own basic law, the spreading of the language and so on,
have done nothing to stop violence. What nationalists want is the right to a country of their own. It is for this,
and only this, that ETA kills. Unfortunately for the radicals, basques are divided equally by their sympathy
and antipathy to the idea of independence. This is due, in good measure, to the turnaround of the PNV, which
has been in Basque Country's office almost continuously since the arrival of the democracy. In fact, as a
consequence of one of these pacts, ETA called a ceasefire in the autumn of 1998 with the aim of seeking the
independence by negotiation. Obviously, this was just a mirage and 14 months later, with the truce over,
ETA's return to terror has caused great acrimony among Basque nationalists of all parties. Since then, 28
people have died, so the total number of killings perpetrated by the terrorists has sadly surpassed the brutal
amount of 800 in the last 30 odd years.
It is unclear how Jose Maria Aznar, Spain's former Prime Minister, and its party PP (Partido Popular) are
going to face and success this political and social nonsense. Now that the heat is on the PNV, Aznar's aim is to
get the PNV out of government as the first step to pave the political way to a peaceful settlement in the
troubled Basque Country. His first attempt will be in three days when the Basque Country elections are held
on May 13th, after the early and expected dissolution of the Parliament. Aznar's plans depends on the
co−operation from the Socialists, which is likely to be but is not assured yet. Both parties, the two most
important democratic ones, signed on an antiterror agreement at the end of last year. This was seen by some as
the prelude of a coalition government in the Basque region. However, plenty of uncertainly lies ahead.
National attention is focused on the ETA problem. President Aznar shows signs that he has the strategy but
many people doubt that it is the correct one. The terrorist group multiplied its attacks and assassinations
throughout 2000. Although there have been periods of greater terrorist activity, especially during the late
1970s, there has never been such visible confrontation among the Basques themselves.
Tragically, 2001 is being another year soured by tension in Euskadi, the Basque Homeland. Last March was
not an exception. A wide range of terrorist activities has occurred over this terrible month. English
Newspapers have reported the following:
• ETA continued with its bloody campaign assassinating 3 people: the politician Froilan Elespe, the
Basque policeman Iñaki Tokorika and the Spanish policeman Santos Santamaria. These killings rose
the number of ETA victims to 28, counting since the end of the truce in the beginning of last year.
• ETA started to spread their terror activities from the Basque Country to other areas in Spain by
placing bombs in the East Coast. Concretely, in Rosas and Gandia. In the latter one, Santos
Santamaria lost his life.
• ETA directed several threats. First of all, the terrorist band warned English tourists not to come to
Spain over their holidays. This together with the planting of bombs in popular resorts shows that
tourists have become legitimate targets. Secondly, ETA sent a death threat to the Spanish actor
Antonio Banderas due to his criticisms of their acts.
• ETA tried to claim a revolutionary tax from the French international defender Vixente Lizarazu and
other Basques footballers. ETA considers playing for the French and the Spanish national teams an
offence of their Basque identity.
• Spanish and Basque Police have also succeeded with the arrest of L.J. Michelena Berasarte,
responsible of ETA's overseas activities for the past 12 years. Moreover, Spanish Police captured 15
people, aged 21 to 25, believed to be the leading members of Jarrai−Haika, the youth wing of ETA,
which is also in charged of the recruitment of new rebellious young Basques.
• ETA, well−know for its cruel bombings, stole 1.6 tonnes of dynamite in France. This material will,
most certainly, be used in their future attacks.
• ETA's bloodthirsty recent history has echoed in The Vatican and the Pope John Paul called for the end
of the barbarism that has been taking place in the Basque Country over the last decades.
Some consider ETA's members to be bloodthirsty killers. Others admire them as heroes. The reality is that
over 800 people have lost their lives at the hands of the terrorist band. This is inadmissible. How much longer
is this nightmare going to last?
You cannot have a dialogue neither with people who kill nor the ones who support them. Taking into account
that the possibility of a potential Army action in the Basque Country is inconceivable, the unique procedure to
finish this absurdity is through democratic elections.
An historical change is waiting for the Basque society with the next polls on the13th of May. This exceptional
situation will, hopefully, return to the normality expected in a peaceful and advanced country as Spain.