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Basque ETA: negotiating a ceasefire ?

by Gjermund E Jansen Wed Sep 14th, 2005 at 09:02:30 AM EST

This would be a significant development - from the diaries (with minor edits) ~ whataboutbob

The armed Basque separatist group ETA is expected to call a ceasefire within three months after secret, indirect negotiations with the Spanish government, according to the Guardian Unlimited.

The newspaper El Mundo quoted unnamed sources as saying that a date for a ceasefire was "practically fixed" and only a change of heart by ETA would prevent a deal.

ETA or Euskadi Ta Askatasuna in Basque, was founded by students in 1953 and started originally as a political discussion group in the Basque city of Bilbao advocating Basque culture in an effort to boost Basque patriotism and awareness in direct opposition to Franco's National centralist policy.  Franco's violent response to the Basque plea for cultural independence and political autonomy led to the creation of ETA in 1959 and the abolishing of their non-violent doctrine.  

During the Franco years, and after ETA carried out a number of violent attacks against government and civilians alike, resulting in hundreds of casualties, the most devastating  being the period between 1978-80 with a total of 235 fatalities.

When the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party or PSOE came to power after defeating the rightwing Party, Partido Popular, in 2004, the new spanish PM Jose Rodriguez Zapatero signaled a less confrontational approach to the Basque question.

El Mundo said intelligence service sources had told it that the talks advanced considerably in August. The Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero would react to the announcement of a ceasefire by seeking parliamentary permission to negotiate a permanent peace agreement, it added.

Observers said they would not be surprised if a ceasefire deal was close, but suspected it was premature to talk of a timetable. "The vox populi is that there have been contacts," said Julen de Madariaga, a former ETA leader who is now in a separatist party not linked to the group. "I don't see why anyone should start saying that there will be a ceasefire within three months. If an agreement is almost ready it would be a mistake to start broadcasting it now." He added that the news might have been leaked to put pressure on one side or the other.

ETA has called, and called off, ceasefires before, with a 1998 truce lasting 15 months. In recent months it has given out confusing signals. In June it called for a peace process and said it would stop attacking elected Spanish politicians. A month later, however, it said it would still target members of the government.

This article is also available at Bitsofnews.com.

This is a real interesting development...and I hope it happens! Interesting that it is happening right after the IRA disarming.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Sep 14th, 2005 at 03:28:53 AM EST
Yes I hope so to.  ETA has announced ceasefires before in 1988, in 1995, in 1998 following the Good Friday accords  in Northen-Irland and in 2004, only in Catalonia.  The last ceasefire was done in an effort to strengthen the ties between the Basque and Catalonian region in their struggle for autonomy. But the ceasefires has never lasted.  Still the frequency of declared ceasefires the last decade, seems to indicate a kind of "battlefatigue" and a greater willingnes to negotiate.  

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Wed Sep 14th, 2005 at 10:12:44 AM EST
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Thanks for your recent posts too, very interesting and well written...keep them coming!!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Sep 14th, 2005 at 11:57:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ETA is an organization that is slowly dying in its blantant militancy, but there still is a large pool of support for Batasuna (Herri Batasuna, AuB, PCTV-EHAK, the poltical wing has been banned many times and reformed with a new name, the last example of this being the Basque regional elections this year where a party called PCTV-EHAK(Communist party of the Basque Country, not an affiiate of the Spanish communist party or the left coalltion IU (United left).  In 2002 or 2003 the gov't of then PM Aznar (officially the judicial magistrate Baltazar Garzon, famous for indicting Pinochet, but Aznar played the ETA card many, many times, the last time being the bullshit attempt to tie the March 11 attacks to ETA.)  

The Basque premier Ibbaretxe (Ibarreche in Spanish) refused to unseat Batasuna members from the basque parliament.  This is the normal order of things in Spain, in many ways the Basque country is a highly autonomous area, and event the plan put out by Ibarratxe for effective independence never relinquihed the relationship with Spain.  Where the basque country ever to become an independet state, hundred of thousands of Spanish of non-Basque descent would likely seek to repatriate to Spain proper. It would be a god awful mess, and polls earlier this year during the basque elections showed that 54% of Spanish favored the military occupation of the Basque country were there to be an independence referendum called.  

Also, there's a deep suspicion on the spanish right that the socialist are in with ETA because Zapatero's poltical ally Carof Rovira of the Catalan Republican left party met with ETA representatives in early 2004 before the March 14 elections in Perpingan, France (ETA depended for many years on the blind eye of the French gov't while using the Bayonne area as a base of operations for attacks in Spain. This has changed, about a year back French police found 1000 kilos of high explosive hidden by ETA in Biarriatz.)  Before the attacks this was the big story.    Shortly after the meeting ETA declared a truce in Catalunya and solidarity with Catalan aspirations.

I sincerely hope that Zapatero is wokring to coax the vast majority of ETA sympthizers  out with a poltical path to peace, and will take on the truly asinine decsion to ban Batasuna.  ETA thrives on the idea that they are an oppressed people (they see themselves as a national liberation struggle, and are nominally a marxist organization) and that because they have been denied the ballot they must embrace the bullet as a means of change.  By providing a political outlet for Basque aspirations the rhetoric of national liberation and the justification for armed struggle are deflated.  The problem is that a large part of the spanish public and the spanish right in particular is unwilling to accept the possiblitty that if given the choice the Basque country would probably choose independence by the slimmest of margins.  If the Spanish right had its way not only would ETA be banned , Carod Rovira, Zapatero's catalan left ally, would be sent to the "gas chamber" (this being a direct quote from on of the banners carried during demonstrations in Madrid directed against the possiblity of a basque independence referendum.)

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed Sep 14th, 2005 at 01:53:51 PM EST
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