[Marxism] ETA Bids Farewell to Arms

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Wed Mar 22 11:45:48 MST 2006


ETA Bids Farewell to Arms

Madrid, Mar 22 (Prensa Latina) The Basque group ETA declared
Wednesday a permanent ceasefire from March 24 to start a new
democratic process in Euskal Herria (the Basque Country) and 
open the possibility of all political options.

In a statement released to Gara, a Basque digital daily, the group
said it aims at building a new framework in which the rights of
Basques as a people would be recognized.

Entitled "Euskadi Ta Askatasuna Message for the Basque People," the
text adds that at the end of this process, Basque citizens will be
able to have a voice and the power to decide their future.

"An end to the conflict is possible today and now. This is the hope
and desire of ETA." it states.

The group has claimed responsibility for more than 800 deaths since
the late 1960s in its campaign to carve out an independent Basque
homeland in northern Spain and southwest France.

mh/ymr/lma/mf
=====================================================================

ETA declare cease-fire Wed Mar 22, 2006 4:19 PM GMT
By Jane Barrett

MADRID (Reuters) - Basque separatist group ETA on Wednesday declared
a permanent cease-fire after almost four decades of bombings and
shootings in Spain during its campaign for independence.

ETA said the truce would start on Friday and Spain's Socialist Prime
Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero cautiously welcomed the move,
emphasising that a long-awaited peace process would be lengthy and
difficult.

ETA, Western Europe's most active separatist group seeking
independence on territory in both northern Spain and south-west
France, broke two cease-fires in the 1990s.

Three ETA members appeared on state television to announce the new
truce, dressed in black berets and white hoods covering their faces.
They sat at a table in front of ETA's flag showing a snake twisted
around an axe.

"ETA has decided to declare a permanent cease-fire from March 24,
2006," said a woman seated in the middle, reading from a statement.

"The object of this decision is to drive the democratic process in
the Basque country in order to construct a new framework in which our
rights as a people will be recognised and to ensure the future
development of all political options."

ETA has been weakened in recent years by a police crackdown with
hundreds of arrests in France and Spain. It also lost support after
the 2004 Madrid train bombings, when Spaniards recoiled in horror at
the killing of 191 people by suspected Islamist fundamentalists.

ETA has killed 850 people and blackmailed thousands of Basque
businesses in its fight for independence. Its last fatal attack was
in 2003.

A cease-fire could open the way to talks with Spain's Socialist
government, which is far more inclined to cede more power to Spain's
regions than the previous conservative one.

"The position of the government is one of caution and prudence. After
so many years of horror and terror, it will be a long and difficult
process," Zapatero told parliament.

Previously united by horror of violence, Spain would now be united by
hope, he said.

LONG CAMPAIGN

Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said: "It is
a very good piece of news for all Spaniards."

"The government has the duty to be extremely prudent, you can't be
cautious enough ... It is our desire and our wish that this will be
the beginning of the end," she added.

Zapatero had raised hopes of an ETA truce earlier this year, only for
the group -- classed as a terrorist organisation by the United States
and the European Union -- to start bombing again.

"We can take this truce very seriously," said Ignacio Sanchez, the
author of studies on ETA.

"They have been weakened more than ever, both by the judiciary and
the police. They are the last active terrorist group in Western
Europe and everything points to this being a permanent truce," he
told Reuters.

ETA's statement made two mentions of France being involved in the
future of the Basque Country, although Paris has always refused to
get involved in any talks with ETA.

"There is no question of France intervening in a problem which falls
under Spanish sovereignty," French Foreign Ministry spokesman
Jean-Baptiste Mattei reiterated. He did not comment on the new
communiqué.

It is unclear quite how many Basques truly want their own state,
having voted in a regional government run by the moderate Nationalist
Basque Party, which sits in Madrid's parliament.

Since 2003 ETA has set off only small bombs, which have caused damage
to buildings but no deaths.

(Additional reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary, Manuel Maria Ruiz, Ben
Harding, Joe Ortiz, Emma Pinedo, Blanca Rodriguez)
================================================================

March 22, 2006 01:11 PM ET 

Zapatero give cautious welcome to Eta ceasefire 
Financial Times All Financial Times News

Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero
cautiously welcomed the announcement by the Basque separatist group
Eta to declare a "permanent" ceasfire, following 38 years of bombings
and shootings in Spain.

Three hooded Eta members appeared on Spanish television to announce
the truce. One of the three, a woman, said the ceasefire was designed
to "drive the democratic process in the Basque country". Mr Zapatero
emphasised that a long-awaited peace process would be lengthy and
difficult.

Every Spanish prime minister has harboured ambitions of bringing
lasting peace to the Basque country, but Mr Zapatero stands a better
chance than his predecessors.

In the course of violent struggle for an independent Basque state,
there have been six indefinite or temporary ceasefires and at least
two known attempts at peace negotiations – by Felipe González in
1989, in Algiers, and by José María Aznar in 1999, in Switzerland.

But after Eta's announcement on Wednesday of a "permanent ceasefire",
Spaniards are more optimistic about prospects for peace than at any
other time in the history of Basque separatism.

"I have the impression that this truce is more definitive than all of
Eta's previous ceasefires," says Edurne Uriarte, a Basque politics
professor who narrowly escaped an Eta assassination attempt in 2000.
"My main question at this stage is whether the government will agree
to political negotiations, and what prime minister Zapatero can offer
in exchange for peace."

Ms Uriarte's question goes to the heart of the difficulties of
establishing a Basque peace process. The ultimate goal of Eta, the
violent separatist group, is the establishment of an independent
state carved out of the Basque-speaking provinces in northern Spain
and southern France. But no government in Paris or Madrid would ever
agree to signing away its Basque-speaking territories, now or in the
future.

Nor can Mr Zapatero entice Eta with the promise of home rule – like
Tony Blair did at the start of the Northern Ireland peace talks –
because the Basque country already enjoys an advanced degree of
self-government. Spain's three Basque provinces elect their own
parliament, collect their own taxes, and run their healthcare and
education systems and police force.

Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, leader of the ruling Socialist party in
parliament, said this week that peace talks with Eta would be limited
to two issues: when and where the separatist group would hand over
its weapons, and whether to allow Eta prisoners to serve their
sentences in Basque jails. At present, some 500 convicted Eta members
are deliberately dispersed throughout Spain to weaken prisoner
groups. A further 150 Eta members are serving time in France.

Some Eta prisoners – many of whom are serving consecutive life
sentences for murder – recently increased pressure on their leaders
to abandon the armed struggle. Six of Eta's jailed veteran members
were expelled from the organisation last year for publishing an open
letter calling for an end to the violence.

Kepa Aulestia, a Basque security analyst, says the prisoners had
become a big headache for Eta. "There are probably 10 jailed members
for every one in active service," he says. "That means supporting
some 700 families at a time when you are becoming less and less
effective as a terrorist organisation."

Analysts agree that the turning point for Eta came with the eruption
of Islamist terrorism in Spain, and the March 11, 2004, train
bombings in Madrid, which left 192 people dead and injured thousands.
"Eta cannot compete with Islamist extremism and the practice of
indiscriminate mass murder," Mr Aulestia says. "Al Qaeda consigned
Eta to irrelevance."

Even before the Madrid train bombings, Eta's effectiveness as a
terrorist group was fast declining. Close co-operation between France
and Spain, and the infiltration of Eta by Spanish undercover agents,
succeeded in paralysing the Basque separatist group. So much so that
Eta has been unable to kill anyone since May 2003, while more than
400 Eta suspects have been detained in France and Spain over the past
three years.

Eta's political influence in the Basque country was also severely
curtailed after Batasuna, the organisation's political wing, was
outlawed in 2002. Unable to field candidates in elections, Batasuna
lost an important source of patronage and income, in addition to the
bullying power it wielded in hundreds of municipal governments.

It is Batasuna's hope that peace talks will proceed quickly enough to
allow it to be legalised in time for next year's local elections in
the Basque country.

Copyright 2006 Financial Times
=====================================================================

Posted on Wed, Mar. 22, 2006 
Basque group ends movement with cease-fire 
ALBERTO LETONA Associated Press

VITORIA, Spain - The Basque separatist group ETA announced a
permanent cease-fire Wednesday, ending a decades-long campaign of
violence and closing the door on one of Western Europe's last active
armed separatist movements.

The news prompted quiet jubilation in Spain, which has endured more
than 800 deaths and $15.5 billion in economic damage since the 1960s
as part of the group's campaign to carve out an independent Basque
homeland in northern Spain and southwest France.

In a video statement, ETA said it "has decided to declare a permanent
cease fire as of March 24, 2006."

"The aim of (the cease-fire) is to promote a democratic process in
the Basque country and to build a new framework in which our rights
as a people will be recognized," the group said. "ETA also calls on
the Spanish and French authorities to respond positively to this new
situation, leaving their repressive ways behind."

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero expressed caution and
hope. He was evasive when asked if he would now start negotiating
with ETA under an offer he made last year, contingent on the group
renouncing violence.

"Any peace process after so many years of horror and terror will be
long and difficult," he told parliament.

Zapatero said that until now, Spain's political parties were joined
in pain over ETA violence. "Now I trust we will be joined in hope,"
he said.

The ETA video showed three people seated at a table in front of an
ETA flag, with their faces covered by beige masks and all wearing
Basque berets. The video was played on national television and
distributed to local Basque TV and newspaper outlets.

Speculation about an end to ETA's armed campaign has been building
for months, despite a recent wave of small-scale bombings against
Basque businesses.

About a dozen small bombs have gone off, mostly in the Basque region,
in the last three weeks. The targets were businesses, banks and
institutional offices. ETA has helped finance its struggle with a
campaign of extortion targeting the business community.

Some have said the recent wave of explosions was an attempt to pad
their war chests before a cease-fire made it too late.

Last month, Zapatero said he was optimistic ETA would soon declare a
truce.

He has been an outspoken proponent of granting more home-rule to
Spain's 17 regions, including the Basque country and the northeastern
economic powerhouse Catalonia. The issue has stirred great debate in
Spain, with many on the right warning that the country could fall
apart.

The prime minister has offered to hold talks with Basque separatist
leaders once ETA agreed to lay down its arms, and Spain's parliament
has backed the move.

Ordinary Spaniards rejoiced.

"I can't believe it!" said Carmen Marichalar, 53, a Madrid tourism
office official. "I think it's brilliant. Now they can negotiate and
bring an end to this terrorism which has gone on for so long in
Spain."

Sandra Dorada, a 29-year-old postal worker, was equally jubilant:

"It's amazing! I hope to God it's true," she said. "But they (ETA)
have said this before and it wasn't true."

ETA has announced cease-fires in the past, although never before have
they said they were permanently renouncing violence.

In the late 1980s, the group observed a truce while holding peace
talks with the Spanish government in Algeria.

In September 1998, it declared what it called an open-ended
cease-fire that ultimately lasted 14 months. A single round of peace
talks during that truce failed to yield an agreement to end the
conflict, and ETA resumed attacks in 2000.

ETA has not staged a fatal attack since May 2003, when a car bomb
killed two policemen in the northern town of Sanguesa.

In recent years, ETA has invariably phoned in warnings before
explosions, and has even marked bombs with the words "DANGER, BOMB."

Many Spaniards believed that after the March 11, 2004, attacks in
Madrid carried out by Islamic extremists, ETA had effectively been
stymied. The idea is that popular revulsion over terrorism made
deadly violence politically unthinkable for the group.

Spain's Socialist government offered negotiations in May 2005 if ETA
renounced violence, but the group has kept up a low-level campaign
and in a recent statement made no mention of laying down arms.

ETA has mostly targeted security force members, although it
increasingly began to kill politicians in the 1990s. In 1995, in one
of its most audacious plots, it tried to assassinate former
conservative Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, targeting him with a
car bomb while he was still opposition leader. Nobody was seriously
hurt in the attack.

The most deadly attack claimed by ETA was a 1987 bombing that killed
21 people in an underground parking lot at a Barcelona supermarket.

ETA stands for Euskadi Ta Azkatasuna - Basque Homeland and Freedom.

---

Associated Press reporters Paul Haven, Ciaran Giles and Mar Roman in
Madrid, Spain, contributed to this report.





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