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Silvia Palacios Robles


Do you consider yourself familiar with ETA’s terrorism organisation? Have you ever
thought about this group’s starting point or the type of members that can be found inside
of it? A date could be given to say exactly for how many years Spaniards have been
struggling against this terrorist group, but the important issue is to look into the future
and ask ourselves, when will Spanish people stop suffering this terrible plight?

Basically, ETA’s acronym means `Basque Native Land and Freedom´, what could be
considered an awesome definition to understand its origins. Having emerged in the mid
60s in the Basque Country as a clandestine organization to fight Franco’s fascist regime,
it is mainly made up of adults whose principal motivation is to draw inwards as many
youngsters as possible to be strong enough so as to achieve the independence of their
region from the rest of Spain and France. In order to achieve their aims, they will do
whatever is in their hands, generally using very aggressive methods. First of all they
will threaten businessmen of their region to pay the so called `Revolutionary Tax´ in
order to raise the necessary amount of money for their armed fight. Secondly, they will
warn the nation by performing hijackings and severe threatens and finally they will act.
This process utterly involves attempting to the public figures of the country;
nevertheless, what hurts the most is that while carrying out this process, innocent people
will be killed.
A good evidence of the way they commonly carry out these hijackings is the murder
of Miguel Angel Blanco in 1997, considered, even nowadays, the most emotive and at
the same time overwhelming for every citizen of this country. Mr. Blanco was
councillor of one of the municipalities of the Basque Country. ETA basically kidnapped
him with the purpose of asking the government for retrieval. This was not a normal
rescue in which they would ask for money, but for the releasing of their imprisoned
companions. They would give just 24 hours to free all of the prisoners, what would
mean that the entire nation could not be but expectant of the decision the government
could settle on. All of us could feel the government’s indecision because letting them
free meant the increase of their power to achieve the independence more rapidly. The
bad ending carried out even more desperation and several strikes during months in
which ETA seemed to turn a deaf ear since they would not stop this `mini war´ against
their own country.

It may seem to the outsider that all of the inhabitants of the Basque country support
ETA’s cause to achieve the independence. However, that is utterly wrong. It has been
demonstrated that approximately half of all Basque citizens are in favour of the murders
as a way to pull off the independence whereas the other half are absolutely against both
the independence and, of course, the murders. Surveys demonstrate that the only reason
why those in disagreement do not leave the Basque Country is because of the fact that it
is their hometown and they do not want to surrender the land to the power of the
separatist movement. Nonetheless, a good part of Spaniards prefer to simplistically
consider all Basque citizens `Etarras´, the name given to ETA members, clearly out of
pure ignorance. Fundamentally, this has resulted in a sense of fear whenever anyone
needs to go to the Basque Country. Yet, it must be considered that the probability of an
attack in that region is indeed lower for the simple reason that it is where `Etarras´ live.

It needs to be highlighted that there have recently been profound doubts about the
existence of a good relationship between Al Qaeda and ETA. Although it could be
possible, and indeed the Spanish government is not sure yet, all of this was totally
related with the attacks in Madrid in 2004. When the events took place, the entire nation
blamed ETA, but in the end we became confused. Despite the fact that it has been
demonstrated that they had nothing to do with it, there are still politicians that blame
them in order to get the population’s vote against the current President.

In a nutshell, although all democratic governments over the past 30 years have been
doing their best to control Basque terrorism, the Spanish population has only managed
so far to obtain temporary truces from the terrorist group. These truces provide hope to
the population about a potential negotiated solution, but ETA demonstrates over and
over again that they are not brought up and they kill again. And the question is, are we
prospering in what terrorism concerns? What would happen if all the 17 regions thought
the same way and had the same power to get their independence? The nation has been
doomed presumably forever, though one thing is very clear in our minds; hope will
never be lost.