Wall Street Journal – December 28, 2010
MADRID—The leader of ETA’s political wing said in an interview from jail that the terrorist group is ready to give up violence and pursue a peaceful strategy to create an independent Basque state.The remarks by Arnaldo Otegi, a key negotiator in past peace talks with the Spanish government, come as the country prepares for an expected statement from ETA in which it could pledge to lay down arms for good.In written answers to questions sent by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Otegi stopped short of confirming that ETA is preparing to announce such an end to its 42-year campaign of violence. But he hinted that unspecified “coming developments” will ratchet up the pressure on the government to negotiate an end to the Basque conflict.In any case, he said, his movement now rejects “any violence that seeks to attain political objectives.”Mr. Otegi’s remarks, while generally in line with recent statements by ETA’s political supporters, represent one of the strongest indications yet that Basque terrorism may be nearing an end.Still, many Spaniards will likely question whether the group is sincere in its peace offer. The group has announced several cease-fires in the past, only to return to violence when its demands haven’t been met. ETA declared its latest cease-fire in September. Skeptics also point to recent activity by ETA as evidence that it isn’t preparing to disband. French authorities blamed ETA for an armed assault on a company there this month in which masked gunmen stole equipment to make fake identification cards.In the interview, Mr. Otegi, who is serving a jail sentence for trying to reconstitute ETA’s political wing, which was outlawed in 2003, appeared to recognize that ETA would have to provide significant new assurances if it is to be taken seriously.”It seems logical to me that the Spanish government would demand guarantees to preserve the security of its citizens,” he said. “We are willing to provide as many guarantees as are necessary to prove that our stance is firm and irreversible.”He didn’t specify what those guarantees could be, but ETA supporters have hinted that they are willing submit to the supervision of international monitors, as the Irish Republican Army did during the peace process in Northern Ireland.The Spanish government declined to comment on Mr. Otegi’s remarks but has recently dismissed statements by ETA and its supporters as insufficient.ETA has killed 829 people during a four-decade violent campaign for an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France. It is classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S., Spain and the European Union.The collapse of the latest peace process in December 2006 was a blow to the government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who had staked much of his political capital on an ETA peace deal.But despite its failure, the effort now appears to have put the government in a stronger position since many Basques blamed ETA for the breakdown. That appears to have eroded support for ETA and its political allies among the Basque population.Polls show that little over one-half of Basques reject ETA completely, up from under one-quarter at the beginning of the 1980s.Since the latest peace talks broke down four years ago, Spain’s center-left Socialist Party government has been using a carrot-and-stick approach in an effort to push ETA toward laying down arms. With the aid of French security forces, Spain has cracked down on ETA members and their political allies, arresting more than 400 suspects in the past four years.At the same time, the Spanish government has quietly granted benefits to ETA prisoners who break ranks with the group, moving some to jails nearer home.Critics say ETA is merely seeking to allow its political allies to take part in local elections in May, sidestepping a Spanish law that bans ETA supporters from running for office. “They want to be in the elections to get access to local financing, control of town-level budgets and attract electoral support to justify their struggle,” said Mikel Buesa, an anti-ETA activist and former Basque politician.Even if the rump of ETA is sincere, itmay not be able to force all of its members to abide by its cease-fire. The group has repeatedly splintered in the past, with older members laying down arms while younger members continue the violence.The Basque region has its own distinctive culture and language, which is unrelated to the Latin-derived tongues spoken around it. It is famous for its picturesque mountainous landscapes and Michelin-starred restaurants; it is one of the wealthiest regions in Spain and enjoys more political autonomy than any other.Around one-third of Spanish Basques favor independence, according to a recent poll by the regional government.ETA was born in the waning days of the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco, who banned regional languages like Basque in an effort to forge a single, Spanish national identity. Its most famous operation—assassinating Franco’s handpicked successor in 1973—is credited by some with hastening the end of the dictatorship.But instead of laying down its arms when democracy returned to Spain in the late 1970s, ETA killed hundreds politicians and civilians in the 1980s and ’90s during the bloodiest stretch of its campaign.
– Euronews: ETA ready to give up violence (news & video).
– “Who are ETA” (BBC – September 5, 2010)
– Interview to Jerome Socolovsky with audio (2006)
Este fin de semana apareció publicada en El País una entrevista de Juan José Millás al ex-presidente del gobierno Felipe GonEzález. La entrevista plantea el tema de los medios y los fines, en este caso, con respecto a ETA. No todo el mundo entiende que ha dicho lo mismo. Pero, desde luego, son unas declaraciones muy polémicas. ¿Qué piensas al respecto de la entrevista?.
The BBC new: The most senior commander of the Basque separatist movement, ETA, has been arrested in a joint, Spanish-French operation, spanish autohirites say.
The CNN new: The suspected leader of the Basque separatis group ETA was arrested late Tuesday in southern France in an operation that has also netted five other suspects, Spain´s Interior Minister said Wednesday.