Ever since the Basque terrorist separatist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (more commonly known as ETA) was founded in the late 1950s, it has assassinated over 800 people in Spain. ETA’s goal is to achieve the independence of the Basque provinces in Spain, as well as the Spanish province of Navarra and French Basque country. Today, its power and operational capabilities have dramatically decreased, mainly due to the combined law enforcement efforts of Spain, France, and, to a lesser extent, Portugal.
Earlier this year, the terrorist group called for a permanent ceasefire. Some see this gesture as a beacon of hope: the beginning of the end for the oldest operating terrorist group in Europe. But is it really?
The terrorist group started its long assassination record during the years of the Franco fascist dictatorship (1939-75), demanding more autonomy for the Basque country from the central government. Targeting civil servants, civilians, and military personnel alike (including several attempts on the lives of my own grandfather and, later, father), the terrorist organization managed to create an atmosphere of chaos and fear throughout the country.
Although in recent years their killings have dramatically decreased, it has been due to the combined efforts of the police forces of Spain and France — notdue to a voluntary stop to the assassinations on the part of ETA. The end of the Basque terrorist group has been a priority of governments of all colors since the installation of democracy. That unity of purpose is what has driven ETA to desperation, and thus the group has — for the third time — been forced to call for a ceasefire.
Unfortunately this is not the first time that the terrorist organization has called for a ceasefire as a ruse to buy time and rearm. Several times before ETA has tried this and several times before has the organization succeeded in reorganizing itself to be once more operational.
The latest of these ceasefire declarations came in March 2006, when the terrorists claimed to permanently give up the armed struggle. However on December 30th of the same year they detonated a bomb in the parking lot of Madrid’s Barajas International Airport, killing two people. Ironically, only a couple of days earlier the Socialist Prime Minister of Spain, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, had declared that the end of ETA was near.
This time around the government seems to be acting more cautiously, following the example and advice of the official opposition party, the conservative People’s Party.
Some in Spain claim that ETA’s end is near. But is it really?