Stop the violence (SPAIN) Essay

This essay has a total of 2259 words and 11 pages.

stop the violence (SPAIN)

Basta. Enough. This word exemplifies the growing attitude toward the violence in the
Spanish nation caused by the cultural differences between its Spanish and Basque
inhabitants. The 2.1 million people of Euskadi, the Basque area of Spain, speak a
different language than typical Spaniards, have a separate culture and society from that
of Spain; and have a history of their own. Throughout the decades, these major cultural
differences contained within the borders of Spain have continued to cause conflict between
the Spanish people and the people of the Basque area. Many within la comunidad autonoma
del pais vasco, the autonomous community of the Basque country, have long been seeking to
free it from the confines of Spanish borders and have proceeded to do so in a terrorist
fashion, although recently there have been attempts by the Basques nationalists to work
towards more peaceful relations with the Spanish government.

ETA is a Basque separatist organization in Spain that has taken up many violent practices
in its efforts to gain independence for the Basque state. Standing for Euzkadi Ta
Azkatasuna, meaning "Basque Homeland and Liberty," this group grew out of the Partido
Nacionalista Vasco, also known as the Basque Nationalist Party or PNV. Since the PNV was
outlawed by dictator Francisco Franco, ETA retained its headquarters secretly in Paris
during his reign. For the past 31 years, it has been the origin of numerous terrorist
attacks, bombings, protests, and murders. It is the key player in the violence that has
plagued Spain and its Basque area.

The Basque region of Spain jumped back into the world arena most recently beginning in
late 1997. By this time, the regional government there had gained partial autonomy from
Madrid. It had been permitted home rule by the Spanish Constitution and elected its own
Parliament with taxing power and a 6,000 member regional police force. The elected
Assembly and administration there controlled education, cultural affairs, social services,
and created jobs for its people. It was in December of this year that the 23 leaders of
Herri Batasuna (HB), the political voice of ETA, were arrested and sentenced to seven-year
jail terms for making a video extolling the terrorist acts of the ETA. This decision by
three Spanish judges marked the first time a direct link was recognized between the
terrorists and their political allies. Unrest was an expected result of this, marked by
the fact that approximately 180,000 Basques supported HB, a party whose abbreviation
stands for "popular unity" in Basque. At the time, they had won 12%of the votes in the
last general election, down from 14% from the election before.

The violence of the ETA remained backstage for a few months until February, when it
continued its violence in the shooting of Alberto Jimenez Bercerril, the deputy mayor of
Seville, and his wife, Asuncion Garcia. This was significant because it was the first time
the terrorists had targeted non-Basque officials and also because it suggested that all
governing politicians might become targets of ETA attack. The shooting incited much
protest in Seville, as Jimenez was the fourth official of his status to be murdered in
less than a year.

Global attention focused back on HB and the ETA the following month, only this time
putting them as the victims of political treachery. CESID, the Spanish secret service that
became the successor to Franco's military intelligence service, were caught illegally
bugging the offices of Basque separatists. This greatly damaged the government's
anti-terrorist movement, and proved their promise to reform the secret service to be
merely a joke. CESID had set up a listening post above HB offices, and fled when their
wires were discovered by a telephone engineer. This discovery infuriated the regional
government, run by the Basque Nationalist Party, which backed Spain's minority
conservative government. It responded by demanding that the government in Madrid pull
secret police and other spies out of the Basque country and to give their job to the
regional police force, the erzaintza. The most significant effects of this incident were
the new targets of CESID members by the terrorist ETA activists, and further reform by
Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar concerning the work of the secret police.

The renouncement of violence by the former terrorist groups of Irish republicans and
Ulster loyalists in fall of 1998 set the stage for what changes were about to occur in
Spanish-Basque relations. Since this action placed the ETA as the last terrorist group
still active in Western Europe, their announcement of an indefinite cease-fire on
September 18, before the October elections in the Basque country, was taken a little more
seriously than usual. Skepticism still ran deep, as former supposed cease-fires had only
resulted in more bloodshed; however, if proven to be effective, this cease-fire could
contribute greatly to the drive for peace set forth by the non-violent Basque Nationalist
Party, which happened to be the largest political party in the Basque region.

The announcement of the cease-fire caused the Basque Nationalist Party to urge Prime
Minister Aznar to make gestures of good faith in order to better relations between all
involved groups. They began to push for the movement of over 500 convicted ETA terrorists
from prisons around Spain to those in the Basque region and for even still more autonomy
for the Basques. Aznar was not quick to comply because of the three previous broken
cease-fires and the elections within the territory in which support for non-nationalist
parties was increasing. An issue of the Economist stated, "Basque terrorism has become
increasingly unpopular, even among Basques." However true, this did not mean that the
nationalist movement was losing support; it just was moving toward a more mainstream
approach. The cease-fire had followed seven months of honored contracts between
non-violent Basque nationalist parties and Herri Batasuna. Together, they were hoping to
gain more support for their nationalist cause and gain control of the assembly without
having to form a coalition with non-nationalist parties.

This support did not come. The October 25th elections results showed that the Basque
Nationalist Party fell short of their desired majority, which made it likely that they
would have to form a pact with a Madrid-based national party that would keep the Basque
region within the borders of Spain. Euskal Heritarrok, the successor party to Herri
Batasuna that changed its name in fear that the previous December's arrests of its leaders
would lead to it being declared illegal, placed third. Socialist leader Rosa Diez was
quoted as saying that these results show that the people of the Basque region "don't want
adventures but a stable framework." What effect would these results have on the
cease-fire? An ETA spokesman said in a British Broadcasting Corporation television
interview the day before the elections that that the cease-fire was "firm and serious."
Nevertheless, Prime Minister Aznar continued to refuse to negotiate with the ETA. He
further denounced the party after the aforementioned spokesman said that it would not
apologize for its violent guerilla attacks, stating that this was an "insult to the memory
of the victims of terrorism."

Six weeks after the cease-fire, Prime Minister Aznar finally authorized his government to
talk to ETA contacts. However, he still refused to make direct peace talks until ETA
"permanently renounces violence" and laid down its arms. Such talks would mark the first
time since 1989 that ETA would confer with the government, and the first time ever for
such talks with a conservative government.

Since this time, the Spanish government has claimed to have made "significant" contacts
with ETA middlemen. By the middle of December, the government had agreed to transfer
twenty-one Basque separatist inmates to prisons closer to the Basque region, feeling that
this would be a tremendous step towards peace between Spanish nationalists and Basque
separatists. Contrary to this belief, two different Basque nationalist parties deemed this
act to be lacking. On December 21, ETA confirmed once again its cease-fire and requested
direct talks with Madrid.
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