José Ignacio Luis Miguel (Spain, AC 07-09)
Around 40 years ago, some regions in Spain, notably the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia, subjugated by General Franco’s dictatorship, started showing their longing for some independence from the central powers of the State. Like any other expression of democratic demands, this was completely illegal and oppression was commonly practised. At that time, any political groups, whether nationalist or liberal, had to meet secretly. A small number of those groups thought violence to be an efficient method of making their voices heard and of fighting the Dictatorship. One of these groups was named ETA (Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna), which can be translated into “Basque Motherland and Freedom”. ETA was responsible for attacks against mostly military objectives, including the killing of one of Franco’s Prime Ministers, Carrero Blanco, through a bombing in Madrid in 1973. Whether the end justified the means is highly arguable. What the facts tell us is that most of the by that time illegal groups, including ETA, became political parties or worker unions following the restitution of democracy after the General’s death in 1975 and ran in the first democratic elections in 1977.
Although a democratic regime was restored, ETA went on with the attacks and turned into a truly terrorist organisation. With time going by, the attacks became more indiscriminative: military or police, politicians, judges or civilians could become victims. More than eight hundred people have been assassinated. A policeman was killed last weekend when a car bomb exploded in front of the police station where he worked, injuring many others, too. In Mars, a local socialist politician, who was a simple road toll worker, was shot dead in Mondragón (Basque Country), where he used to be town councilor, leaving behind wife and three children, one of whom witnessed his death in the street. Thousands of people have to live under threats and daily protection. Those killings have gone from bombs to shootings, from supermarkets or police control points to people who were peacefully sitting in cafés or having a drink in bars with friends. Kidnappings, often with a fatal end, have also taken place. Someone stands in front of you, aims at you and fires the gun. Someone else presses the detonator without thinking of the families that he or she is going to lose and lives with their hopes, plans and dreams are suddenly cut. And a whole society is hurt.
Negotiation processes have been attempted by, I would dare to say, every Spanish democratic government, but they never go beyond a temporary, short-lived ceasefire. Police action seems to work moderately well. In the last few years many terrorists have been detained, often as a fruit of the collaboration with the French Police. The “popularity” of the group has also dramatically weakened. The initial sympathies that ETA had in its early years have almost completely disappeared. Every political party in Spain or Euzkadi (the Basque Country) is completely against violence. Non-nationalists as well as nationalists are threatened. Just a handful of small semi-illegal parties sometimes refuse to condemn the terrorist attacks. Society is wholly against ETA, which does not seem to understand that its actions do not make any sense. Basque nationalism, like other nationalist movement within Spain, is represented by a group of mature political parties which defend, first of all, democratic rights and dialogue as a way to solve problems and to reach autonomy from the Spanish Administrations.
Everyone agrees that a solution has to be found for the terrorist problem. Is it negotiations or is it simply justice and jail? Either answer will be given from a state where no one’s voice is silenced with guns. They are just a group of assassins despised by anyone who respects freedom and human life. ETA is not making any service to its initial cause. Those terrorists have lost their bearings. They were born to fight authoritarianism and have become authoritarian themselves. They are the dictatorship suffered by the Basque and the Spanish people in these last thirty years. Let’s hope that no more names will have to be added to that long, horrible list of victims with the conviction that justice will, in the end, prevail.
– United World College Student Magazine –