Feature

Have the Basque separatists really renounced terror?

The week's news at a glance.

We want to believe them, said Spain’s Cinco Dias in an editorial. Militant Basque separatists from ETA have at last declared an end to their four-decade terrorist campaign. Three Basque militants, their heads completely covered in white veils topped by black berets, appeared on Basque television to announce a "permanent cease-fire." They said that from now on, ETA would seek "recognition of the rights that belong to us, as a people," through the "democratic process." Spaniards are now abuzz with "equal parts hope, distrust, and caution." Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who has long promised that Basque terror would one day cease, said: "This could be the beginning of the end."

Don’t smother the militants in kisses just yet, said Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine in an editorial. ETA is acting as if it has done a noble and magnanimous thing in announcing its "cease-fire." But these "radical nationalists, throwbacks from another century," have been murdering people for 30 years in the name of their "blood and soil" ideology. The spokeswoman who delivered ETA’s announcement had "not a word of regret for, or even acknowledgement of, the more than 800 victims" of Basque terror. And ETA still wants a separate homeland for Basque speakers in northern Spain and southern France. Prime Minister Zapatero should remain "skeptical" of this latest overture. Remember, ETA has broken promises of cease-fires in the past.

But that was before Spain experienced its own 9/11, said Elizabeth Nash in Britain’s Independent. The viability of terrorism as a "political strategy" died on March 11, 2004, when Islamic radicals blew up four commuter trains in Madrid and killed 192 people. All Spaniards were "sickened" by the crime, and even those who may have previously been sympathetic to the Basque cause would not tolerate any more bloodshed. ETA was forced to recognize that its struggle for independence must henceforth "be advanced only through nonviolent means."

We’ll see, said Isabel San Sebastian in Spain’s El Mundo. The burden of proof rests with "those who have wasted each and every one of the opportunities given them." We know that ETA is weaker than ever, after scores of its operatives have been arrested over the past two years. So it’s certainly plausible that the group has given up violence. But "it has yet to promise to actually give up its weapons." Until ETA disarms, it doesn’t deserve to be treated as a political partner.

Juan Pablo Fusi

ABC

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