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Light at the end of the tunnel?
March 22, 2006 8:47 AM   Subscribe

ETA declares permanent ceasefire. For more than 40 years the terrorist group ETA has been making life in Euskadi (Basque Country) and Spain a nightmare. After its political arm Batasuna dropped hints at wanting to resolve this conflict politically, rather than with bombs, ETA itself has finally come out and said the same. The majority of the Spanish population want to negotiate a peace, but not everybody. Can the terrorists be trusted?
posted by sic (41 comments total)

 
While Prime Minister Zapatero talks of hope, the opposition leader Mariano Rajoy, perhaps sensing a political disaster for his Partido Popular, remains skeptical. Jose Maria Aznar's (ex-prime minister and erstwhile Bush ally) reaction has been to criticize Zapatero for his “defeatist attitude”. Strangely, the Spanish Bishops have come out criticizing the situation using exactly the same language as the Partido Popular. Perhaps some elements are too afraid of the political ramifications to accept the possibility that there may be a real and lasting peace in Spain? But once again I ask, are the criminals that run ETA to be trusted?
posted by sic at 8:47 AM on March 22, 2006


Terrorist networks today operate very much like nation-states. If you want to defeat them, the first step is to understand that they're not two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs. They have beliefs, motivations, and everything else that other nation-states have. Yes, they kill innocent people to achieve their ends--but then, so do nation-states. They break their word--but then, so do nation-states. "Can the terrorists be trusted?" About as much as you can trust a nation-state, I'd say. Which is to say, "Not much," but we manage to work out treaties and so forth anyway.
posted by jefgodesky at 9:03 AM on March 22, 2006


This is wonderful news.
posted by By The Grace of God at 9:20 AM on March 22, 2006




Why, oh why is this so hilarious to me? It made me laugh until I had an asthma attack.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:28 AM on March 22, 2006


Having lived in Spain for ten years during the 70's and 80's, I welcome the news of the ceasefire, but just as I welcomed the news of the Good Friday Agreements, I remain skeptical.

Once a man with a gun has been able to get from society what he wants, it's difficult to rehabilitate him and integrate back into that same very society he once assaulted at will.

Good luck.
posted by jsavimbi at 9:30 AM on March 22, 2006


jefgodesky: point well taken, however, ETA has long history of violence, some of it can be justified by a sincere belief that they were fighting for freedom, but in the last 20 years or so they have fallen further and further into purely criminal activity. Still, I'm hopeful.

Mayor Curley, I understand how the sheets over the head can seem silly, out of context, but if these guys are putting a bullet into your head, a bomb in your car or if other guys in sheets are burning a cross on your lawn, the joke gets old.
posted by sic at 9:39 AM on March 22, 2006


Wow. Really, holy shit. ETA pulled off some really nasty stuff when I was living over there, including the assassination of a law professor at my university. I'm hopeful, and wish the spanish and the basques the best.
posted by donpedro at 10:05 AM on March 22, 2006


Bush is really anti-environment, but to go so far as to close down the ETA is mind-boggling.
posted by orthogonality at 10:08 AM on March 22, 2006


Wow. You mean diplomacy may work better than trying to bomb someone into liking you? Who would have thunk?
posted by Mr_Zero at 10:20 AM on March 22, 2006


From the BBC article, I think this is spot-on:

Some analysts said Eta's campaign became virtually untenable after the Madrid train bombings in March 2004, blamed on Islamists, caused widespread popular revulsion.
posted by donpedro at 10:24 AM on March 22, 2006


Can the terrorists be trusted?

No.
posted by languagehat at 10:33 AM on March 22, 2006


You mean diplomacy may work better than trying to bomb someone into liking you?

The Basque situation is vastly different from what I assume you're implying a parallel to. Closer to the "troubles" in Northern Ireland than anything else, and indeed the ETA and the IRA supposedly have shared technology, weapons, etc.

The Spanish government has also carried out vicious anti-terrorism campaigns in the past. Such as an off-the-books anti-ETA offensive in the 1980s run by shadowy government forces known as the GAL ("Anti-terrorist Liberation Groups") under the socialist PSOE party, for example, in which a number of Basques were killed and disappeared in an operation reminiscent of Latin American "dirty wars." Few of those killed were ever demonstrated to have had any link to ETA. Probably largely responsible for the PSOE losing power in historic 1994 elections to the right-wing Popular Party (really quite right-wing especially at that time, populated by holdovers from Franco's regime).
posted by donpedro at 10:36 AM on March 22, 2006


Oops, make that "1996 elections."
posted by donpedro at 10:40 AM on March 22, 2006


What jefgodesky said. The post is good and informative up until the last op-ed bit, which is just asking to start a flamewar. That said, this is good news.

As a broader issue, I'm curious what MeFiers think of separatist movements; i.e. to what degree do they have a right to demand a separate state? And since governments (with weapons and armies) are generally not welcoming to separatist movements, to what degree do they have the right to have an armed wing to achieve their goals?
posted by beerbajay at 10:46 AM on March 22, 2006


donpedro, your IRA/Northern Ireland comparison is very valid. And just like in Ireland, both sides have a long history of brutal and shitty things they've done to each other that they use to justify their continuing hostilities. I can't side with Franco's people or Basque terrorists, both sides are deeply distasteful to me. But it seems like, after the Madrid bombings and the peace in N Ireland, the ETA has finally realized that they're not going to accomplish their goals through car bombs and murder. This should be encouraged.

I feel the same way about this announcement as I did about the IRA ceasefire: Joy that (god willing) no more innocent people will be killed in the crossfire.
posted by Gamblor at 10:50 AM on March 22, 2006


There are reasons to suspect this is not a genuine 'peace' offer but a simple recognition that ETA can't operate in the current environment and are trying to take credit for their own temporary neutralization.

What should we be looking for? ETA turning over weapons and explosives, amnesty demands/offers, leaders stepping forward using their own names and allowing their faces being photographed, independent third parties being brought in monitor deals, etc.

Anything short of this would just mark a pause until future conditions allow a return to violence.
posted by Jos Bleau at 10:51 AM on March 22, 2006


to what degree do they have a right to demand a separate state? They can demand as much as they damn want, at the top of their flippin' lungs.

to what degree do they have the right to have an armed wing to achieve their goals? This is really the meat of the question, isn't it? During the Franco regime, when the Basque language was outlawed and the region's citizens suffered pretty generally at the hands of the government, I would argue that ETA was justified in having an armed wing. As far as how the armed wing goes about tactically, that's a judgement call, case-by-case. Once Franco kicked it, and left-leaning governments began giving Euskadi (and other culturally and linguistically different regions such as Catalonia and Valencia) greater, unprecedented autonomy, the armed wings had less justification for existing. (Although as I said in a previous comment, the violence was institutionalized by then and the socialist government was still being pretty nasty at times.) Today, with 66% of Basques not favoring independence and 87% saying they don't support violence toward independence (stats from Wikipedia link), ETA needs to STFU militarily.
posted by donpedro at 11:01 AM on March 22, 2006


was justified in having an armed wing.

This is the cynic in me speaking. Honestly, ideally, I suppose they never have a right to exist. Non-violent movements are always the only way to retain absolute moral high ground.
posted by donpedro at 11:04 AM on March 22, 2006


point well taken, however, ETA has long history of violence, some of it can be justified by a sincere belief that they were fighting for freedom, but in the last 20 years or so they have fallen further and further into purely criminal activity

One could say the same of many contemporary nation-states, no?

That's less a point to defend the ETA than it is to condemn the nation-states on the other side of this bargaining table. As St. Augustine pointed out (Civitas Dei, book 4, ch. 4; see "Pirates and Emperors"), "excepting justice," the only difference between politicians and criminals is a simple question of scale.

There are reasons to suspect this is not a genuine 'peace' offer but a simple recognition that ETA can't operate in the current environment and are trying to take credit for their own temporary neutralization.

How is that not a legitimate peace offer? Most peace treaties are only considered when one side or the other is no longer capable of carrying on hostilities.
posted by jefgodesky at 11:08 AM on March 22, 2006


donpedro writes "Non-violent movements are always the only way to retain absolute moral high ground."

I was a member of the Qart-Hadasht Non-violent Resistance Movement in Carthage. But the Romans still sowed my fields with salt and sold my daughters into slavery.
posted by orthogonality at 11:10 AM on March 22, 2006


There's a difference between a cease fire and real peace. For example, the middle east has seen innumerable cease fires between the Israelis and whoever they were fighting at the moment - but we're still waiting for peace there.

A cease fire is just that - a promise not to fight. Peace is the end to conflict. If there's going to be peace in this case we should look for the sorts of things that I listed. Everywhere in the world where warring parties are working towards peace they are doing things.
posted by Jos Bleau at 11:16 AM on March 22, 2006


ortho: bummer, that. You really should have kidnapped and dismembered a Roman general's wife as revenge.

I'm just saying that a case can be made for resisting occupying forces, but if you're talking about "absolute moral high ground," nobody's going to (or should) equate the likes of Arafat with, say, Gandhi.
posted by donpedro at 11:30 AM on March 22, 2006


The difference between this statement by ETA and earlier ceasefires is that the language is much more decidely peacelike. They always talked about truces before and they never talked about joining the democratic process. I'm really hoping that we can finally get past this particular chapter of Spanish/Basque history.


The post is good and informative up until the last op-ed bit, which is just asking to start a flamewar. That said, this is good news.

Yeah, I probably should have left that off, but in my defense, anybody who has been living in Spain for the last two years has been subject to some of the filthiest mudslinging and dirty politics from the right wing party I have ever seen. When Aznar talked about Zapatero's "defeatest attitude" today because he wants to negotiate peace it was just more of the same crap he's been spewing for 24 months now. The truth is if Zapatero is able to broker a lasting peace he's virtually assured another four years and that has the PP and the Spanish Bishops running scared.

Still, your point is taken.
posted by sic at 11:46 AM on March 22, 2006


Aznar is bitter. He tried to blame 13 M on ETA and the people blew him away at the polls. " Viva la Democracia" Spanish politics are particularily unpleasant at the moment especially as Catlunya is seeking more autonomy. Zapatero had the balls to keep talking with ETA as well as playing hardball; and not grandstanding about how he would never talk with terrorists. He realised that without a dialogue there was no way forward. As for the bishops; like their friends in the PP they reflect their falangist past.
The Catholic church as an institution is increasingly irrelevant in Spainish life.
posted by adamvasco at 12:33 PM on March 22, 2006


I think I'll go for being cautiously optimistic about this one.

As for armed separatist or secessionist movements ... depends. Not all separatist movements are created equal. Are they fighting for the right not to be oppressed? Or to oppress someone else? Or can nobody tell the difference anymore? Or on a purely ethnic, religious, or historical basis? What is the extent of the violence being done to their group?
posted by kyrademon at 1:04 PM on March 22, 2006


"Can the terrorists be trusted?"

No more and no less than the establishment, inasmuch as both have been behaving the way they've behaved in order to accomplish a goal.

If they can't reach a compromise on that goal, it will just start back up, most likely.
posted by davejay at 1:06 PM on March 22, 2006


A question for Spanish Mefites -

Is it in fact the case that the constitution states that the territorial integrity of Spain is guaranteed by the army, not by any political process?

If so, where does this leave a Basque who thinks Euskadi has a right to be a separate nation?
posted by apodo at 1:20 PM on March 22, 2006


The ETA - you never know when they're coming.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:01 PM on March 22, 2006


What are the 'falangist' references about? I can't find anything about them on wikipedia or with a google, unless you're talking about bone structures.
posted by mephron at 3:14 PM on March 22, 2006


The Falange.
posted by languagehat at 4:02 PM on March 22, 2006


The Falange was the extreme right wing of the Franco dictatorship.

question for Spanish Mefites -

Is it in fact the case that the constitution states that the territorial integrity of Spain is guaranteed by the army, not by any political process?


Apodo: Nowhere in the Spanish Constitution does it say anything even close to this. I'm curious, where did you here this?
posted by sic at 4:24 PM on March 22, 2006


Actually now I see the article you are referring to:

Article 1.2 of the Spanish Constitution says (translating) National sovereignty belongs to the Spanish people from whom the powers of the State emanate.

Article 8.1 The mission of the armed forces, made up by the Army, Navy and Airforce, is to guarantee the sovereignity and independance of Spain, defend its territorial integrity and constitutional legal system.

Article 8.1 needs to be understood in the context of article 1.2. The validity of the constitution rests with the people. If the people were to vote Yes to Basque independance, they would be able to cede. That's basically what the Basque nationalists want, a referendum on Basque autonomy.
posted by sic at 4:33 PM on March 22, 2006


"Can the terrorists be trusted?"

No obviously, but that's an obvious question with an obvious answer.

The real question remains , Can be Aznar and similar politicians be trusted ? He took the opportunity to blame ETA for the terrorist bombing in Spain and by doing so he revelaed he LIED AND MISLED spanish population, only because that was convenient for his petty political interest.

If bombing a train is horrible and intolerable, so is misleading an entire nation inciting them against criminals, but innocent of THAT crime. That kind of lie is what destroys democracy, if the leader lies why can't we as well ?

Fuck Aznar and his similars.
posted by elpapacito at 5:26 PM on March 22, 2006


The validity of the constitution rests with the people. If the people were to vote Yes to Basque independance, they would be able to cede.

Well , I wonder whether the army sees it that way.
posted by apodo at 11:59 PM on March 22, 2006


I don't think the army has a coup d'etat in them, if that's what you are thinking. I highly doubt that the EU would let that happen even if they did have the cojones to try a take over. Although it is true that some general recently came out talking about just this issue but in regards to the new Catalonian Statute (the idea is that the new statute is going to tear Spain asunder, so the army would have to prevent it -- hogwash). Which just goes to show how wound up the immflamatory politics of the PP (Aznar) has the Spanish right.

elpapacito: my sentiments exactly.
posted by sic at 1:34 AM on March 23, 2006


By the way apodo, if there is a Referendum on independance in the Basque Country, I doubt it would get more than 50% yes votes and it would need more like 90% to be able to take such a radical step. This was the point Zapatero made when the President of Euskadi Ibarrexte defended his proposed amendments to the Basque statute a year ago. But supposing that by some miracle a referendum was held and 90% of the Basques wanted to cede, I still think there would have to be a national referendum to seal the deal.

The military wouldn't be involved in this process, but you have to understand that there are still fascist elements in Spain (in the Partido Popular, the military and of course the Church) that say hyperbolic things from time to time. But there time and relevance is past. Spain is part of the EU, it is firmly entrenched in the 21st Century; just look at the social legislation that Zapatero has passed in the first two years of his administration, in many ways Spain has become one of the most progressive countries in Europe (and that's saying something). It's inconceivable that the country could be sucked back into the 1940s because some generals want to relive their fascist history.

I really don't think we have to worry about the military.
posted by sic at 1:43 AM on March 23, 2006


It was exactly the inflammatory talk concerning the Catalan Statute that made me wonder just how radical the right is really becoming.

Where I live is a PSOE/IU stronghold, with 'Aznarites' probably only 10% of the population, so it's hard for me to judge.

I've been reading El Mundo for a few years now, from time to time, but Spanish political newspaperese is heavy going, and Basque politics is still as opaque as the day I started...
posted by apodo at 2:16 AM on March 23, 2006


It might be a good idea to read more than one Spanish Newspaper as they are all extremely ideological. El Mundo is center-right, El Pais center-left, ABC heavily Catholic and La Razón wacky right wing, kind of like FOX news. Some of the Catalan papers are pretty good as well...

Anyway, by reading at least El Pais and El Mundo, you can kind of vector in on a plausible version of the truth.

By the way, what part of Spain are you in?
posted by sic at 3:25 AM on March 23, 2006


I highly doubt that the EU would let that happen

Oh? Not that I think there's much chance of a golpe, but what exactly would the EU do about it? Send the mighty EU Army sweeping down from Brussels, destruction in its path and devastation in its wake, to pummel the puny upstarts into submission? Or... pass some strongly worded reproaches?
posted by languagehat at 5:12 AM on March 23, 2006


What? Don't tell me that you don't believe in the power of the strongly worded reproach! MetaTalk is a vertible shrine to it's effectiveness!

But seriously, I do think that the EU would do more than reproach a golpe de estado -- if something as extraordinary as the 5th largest country in the Union being taken over by fascists actually somehow happened I believe that the other member states would have to intervene, militarily if need be. Perhaps it would be by sending a coordinated force from individual militaries (it's not like they don't do it all the time under NATO) or perhaps they would finally get off their asses and inaugurate the Euroforce that they've been on about for such a long time.

Membership in the EU is actually an important question for Basque (and other) separatists. If a region were to cede from a member state would they still be part of the EU? I don't think so. That means their economy would automatically be suspect and don't think for a second that nationalist parties like PNV in the Basque Country or CiU in Catalonia don't put their precious economies before any dreams of independence. The EU would be a factor.
posted by sic at 7:29 AM on March 23, 2006


I doubt the army would try an outright coup (¡ojalá!) but there must be other pressure elements of it could bring to bear, for example planting a bomb and blaming it on ETA. I wonder sometimes how thoroughly reconstructed the Guardia Civil is, too.


As for papers, sic, I read online, and El Pais used to have very little content available to non-subscribers. I just checked, and it looks much more open now :)

I live in Andalucia, well away from the coast...
posted by apodo at 10:41 AM on March 23, 2006


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