WOULD TERRORIST ETA LAY DOWN ARMS?
29 EYLÜL 2010
Separatist terrorist organisation ETA has announced a ceasefire. According to the video recording distributed by ETA, the organisation is ready to follow a “democratic process”. However, there are many complicated details to the issue.
ETA, has been fighting for the independence of the Basque region in northeast Spain. In the past the organisation has carried out shootings and bombings, killing many. ETA has now announced that it will no longer undertake armed action and in doing so has the aim of starting a democratic process. What should be noticed is that ETA has not given up. ETA has simply decided to fight with the pen rather than the gun. It has decided to bring the struggle to the table from the street.
So ETA has not been beaten. One could say the same thing by saying “ETA does not want to accept defeat”. It makes no difference as ETA has not surrendered, nor laid down arms. This unexpected ceasefire by ETA opens certain concepts and assumptions to question.
For example, will Spain continue its activities aimed at destroying ETA? Will it cease them? We shall see. Furthermore, will Madrid sit at the table with ETA as part of the “democratic process” in order to solve the problem of Basque terrorism? Or will there be indirect talks between parties representing the two sides? These are also to be seen in the future.
There is one essentially unsolvable problem. ETA, which has been fighting for independence in north eastern Spain and south western France had declared a ceasefire twice before and then it had resumed its armed activities. Will the organisation, formed in 1959 and which carried out its first activities in 1960, abide by its ceasefire decision? This is also to be seen.
Let us now “zoom in” on the details of ETA’s ceasefire declaration. In the video recording three masked militants, one of whom was a woman, sitting in front of an ETA flag have called on “Basque politicians and non-governmental organisations to act responsibly”. They also said that the ceasefire had been declared in order to “take determined steps as a people and to reach a process of democratisation which will allow for the people to be given decision making power”. In its announcement, ETA claimed that “for a door to a real solution to end hostilities to be opened, it is necessary for the right of the Basque people to be recognised and guaranteed.”
ETA has arrived at the ceasefire decision through the following milestones. Negotiations held between the government and ETA in 2006 which caused great debate in the country came to an end after ETA carried out a bomb attack against Madrid Airport.
ETA was then weakened by operations in Spain and France in which certain leaders were captured and in Portugal where a bomb factory was discovered.
In Spain, the government under Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero had announced that they would only negotiate with the Basque separatist organisation under the condition that they give up violence and lay down arms. In the end the organisation has declared a ceasefire and announced that it wants to pursue its aim through peaceful and democratic means.
Undoubtedly, behind ETA declaring a ceasefire there is the fact that Basque public opinion condemns terrorism after every activity. Indeed, Patxi Lopez, President of the Basque Autonomous Administration has made a statement saying ETA’s ceasefire is “inadequate and does not meet the expectations of the public”. In the statement, Lopez said “it is still ETA’s turn and it is they who have to take the decision to lay down arms completely”.
Lopez also said that ETA does not meet the demands of the Basque people or the political parties close to it. Basque Autonomous Region Minister of the Interior Rodolfo Ares as well as the Spanish Minister of the Interior Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba have demanded that ETA give up terrorist activities and lay down arms. There is another detail which one should zoom in on: just as Prime Minister Zapatero had agreed to negotiate with ETA under the condition that it give up violence and lay down arms, Minister of the Interior Rubalcaba has also said that there is a need for ETA to come within legal boundaries.
Just like the terrorist organisation of 50 years which has not carried out activities in 13 months, Prime Minister Zapatero is under pressure from both the public and the international community regarding this issue. Recently a forum in Sao Paulo representing 54 leftist parties from 33 countries has called on Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi to be released. Furthermore, the nationalist PNV party from the Basque region is of importance to Zapatero in voting regarding the budget and austerity measures.
ETA demands independence for the autonomous Basque region. Madrid, which has significantly curbed ETA’s political and armed activities is now trying to bring the organisation within legal boundaries. ETA’s declaration of ceasefire suggests that the organisation might just comply.
However will it be the case that ETA agrees to be bound by laws and legal regulation? Even if the organisation lays down arms and becomes legal after its declaration of ceasefire, will its members consent to lead “just a legal life”? Will ETA decode itself in such a manner?
Also can ETA dissolve its relations and contacts which have brought it up to the present day through 50 years of struggle? Would it be able to account for them? There are not many answers to be given to these questions, which leads one to think that though ETA may lay down arms and become legal, the same should not be expected to follow certainly for its members.