Spain has always been different. It is noticeably divided by weather, customs and language. Its diversity is both its prime attraction and its downfall, for it has born fruit to three strong nationalistic sentiments: Basque, Catalan and Galician all of which were suppressed under Franco’s four decades of authoritarian rule.
Unless you have been hiding in some obscure place you would have heard that ETA, the Basque separatist group, has announced the end of their violent campaign, which has plagued Spain since 1958. For those who were – and may still be- completely unaware of ETA’s existence, you are forgiven! Spain is often portrayed as a carefree holiday haven, where life is ruled by the prevalence and almost compulsory ‘siesta’ by long nights of ‘fiesta’. Whether we Spaniards like it or not Spain is internationally recognised for the abundance of cheap ‘cerveza’ rather than for its complex socio-political situation.
…taken the positive stance…
ETA’s violent campaign for independence has claimed over 800 lives. This begs the following question: why has ETA’s cessation of violence statement not been met with widespread joy by all Spaniards?
The international press has been quick to highlight the importance of ETA’s announcement and has generally taken the positive stance that ETA’s statement is great news for the Iberian Peninsula. The Spanish authorities, through bitter experience, are cautiously reminding themselves and their civilians that ETA’s home-video did not clearly spell out surrender.
‘ We must be prudent’…
A close inspection of ETA’s brief statement exposes the Spaniards’ foundations for concern as it portrays an organization, which continues to operate in a deluded haze. ‘ We must be prudent’, says Mariano Rajoy, the leader of the opposition party, for ETA’s statement does not mention final dissolution. ETA’s message does call for an open dialogue with both the French and Spanish governments; thus making it more of a conditional offer rather than an ‘in-conditional ’cessation of violence.
Spaniards’ scepticism is based upon the fact that ETA’s statements of cessation are part of the group’s ‘modus operandi’, all of which have been violated by violent terrorists attacks. The Madrid Airport bombings in December 2006 violated ETA’s last cease-fire, which lasted nine months. It is also no secret that ETA has previously used periods of apparent inactivity to plan further terrorist attacks, as recently confirmed by two of its members in court.
…they are loyal to the victimisation that has characterised them since their emergence…
ETA’s words are not remorseful. They do not seek the forgiveness of the victim’s families nor are they willing to ask for the pardon of the Spanish nation. Instead, they are loyal to the victimisation that has characterised them since their emergence. ETA is merely accepting that they have been debilitated by the ongoing security crackdown, which has resulted in the highly-publicised capture of many of its militants and the decrease in funds. Their discourse praises those who have fought ETA’s battle but fails to acknowledge the atrocity of their actions.
Spanish scepticism is fuelled further by the fact that the emergency general elections are a month away. It is not secret that ETA has tried to manipulate every single democratic election held in Spain. It is expected that the opposition party will win the forthcoming elections by a landslide and its leader; Mariano Rajoy is seen as the man most likely to manage ETA’s dissolution. In light of this, one wonders whether this is just another one of ETA’s attempt to take centre stage in hope of swaying the Spanish ballots.
ETA’s statement can and will be interpreted differently all over Spain; specially by those who have been directly affected by the group’s activity. Good can come of this if the situation is engineered correctly and prudently, but Spain will not be at peace until ETA is completely dissolved. The hope of a tired nation rests upon the shoulders of its politicians, at this point ETA’s words are just words and Spaniards deserve actions.
Images courtesy of ETA and Mariano Rajoy