Friday, October 21, 2011

ETA Declares Peace. Is Spain Ready to Believe It?

Via (World) -

The words Spaniards have waited 43 years to hear finally came on Thursday evening. In a video sent to a handful of media outlets, three masked figures wearing the typical beret of the Basque country appeared on screen and declared, "ETA has decided to bring its armed activity to a definitive cessation." And with that, the separatist violence that has plagued Spain for more than four decades — and left 829 people dead — appeared to end.

It was, in many ways, a death foretold. In the past several years, ETA, which was formed in 1959 to fight for an independent Basque homeland and committed its first attack in 1968, has grown progressively weaker, while the demands for peace have only increased, spreading even to the group's historical allies. But the news still left Spaniards debating the reasons for the declaration and, perhaps more significantly for the peace process, wondering if they could trust it.

It's no surprise that this happened," says Ignacio Sánchez-Cuenca, political scientist at Madrid's Juan March Institute and author of several books about ETA. "I'm simplifying here, but you can see two basic causes: the fact that as ETA has diminished, it has been easier for the police to control, while at the same time, the support for a political solution among the Basque nationalist left has grown."

Cooperation between Spanish, French, and Portuguese authorities has decimated ETA's leadership in recent years, leaving the band with what experts estimate are only 50 active members. Seven hundred convicted members of the separatist group are currently serving prison sentences, and ETA has staged no attacks since March 2010, and none on Spanish soil since June 2009.

For security expert Ignacio Cosidó, member of parliament for the opposition Popular Party, those efforts explain why ETA has said it is abandoning violence. "The declaration is due above all to the efficiency of police and security forces," he says. "ETA finds itself so weak that it really had no other choice."

Read more:,8599,2097522,00.html


ETA or Euskadi Ta Askatasuna ("Basque Homeland and Freedom") is an armed Basque nationalist and separatist organization. The group was founded in 1959 and has since evolved from a group promoting traditional Basque culture to a paramilitary group with the goal of gaining independence for the Greater Basque Country. ETA is the main organisation of the Basque National Liberation Movement and is the most important participant in the Basque conflict. ETA declared ceasefires in 1989, 1996, 1998 and 2006, but subsequently broke them. However, on 5 September 2010, ETA declared a new ceasefire that is still in force — moreover, on 20 October 2011 ETA announced a "definitive cessation of its armed activity".

The European Union and the United States list ETA as a terrorist organization in their relevant watch lists. The United Kingdom lists ETA as a terrorist group under the Terrorism Act 2000. The Canadian Parliament listed ETA as a terrorist organization in 2003.

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