Wednesday, March 22, 2006
ETA Declares a Truce
Far away in Spain, where the scribe’s heart lies, ETA has declared a ceasefire. The Gray Lady herself covered it.
Some 800 people have been killed by the Basque separatist group, which fights for a homeland independent of the central Spanish state. By today’s standards of mass urban murder that may seem small, but those deaths were like drops of tiny water torture that drove Spain slightly mad.
Generals, city councilman, Basques, non-Basques, children of army officers, children of regular people, regular people: All became victims in an endless campaign of terror that galvanized support amongst the least malleable of the Basque people and repulsed everyone else.
Violence has its uses, but those are few and that’s the reality that has hit home here. Some news reports claim ETA is “decimated by arrests” but that has been said many times before and is very hard to prove.
The violent kale borroka, a reproduction of the Palestinian Intifada that has waxed and waned in País Vasco over the past eight years or so, would provide fertile ranks of recruitment for a new generation of idealistic extortionists and butchers.
The problem is that it’s just not working. Proving you can be as cruel as your oppressors really just cancels you out. It's not a legitimate proposition. Like the IRA in Northern Ireland (“Book Report- Sinn Fein, A Hundred Turbulent Years,” January 18) ETA has learned a hard lesson: that playing at democracy works, and that it takes a lot of violence to unseat an established state.
Today ETA, and the many Basque nationalists it claims to represent, must stand aside and watch the Catalonian government negotiate legislation further increasing its autonomy from Spain.
In the 1990s, the Catalonian nationalist party Convergencia i Unió had a handful of seats in the Spanish parliament. But Socialist President Felipe Gonzalez’s coalition was diminished and he needed the votes of the Catalans. Their wily leader in those days, Jordi Pujol, got a deal for power, a good deal, and lay the groundwork for the further independence Catalonia is to gain now.
So ETA is going the straight and narrow route. The development, if it holds (and that’s a big if), is another triumph for the mild-mannered Spanish President Jose Luis Zapatero (pictured), who is leading a quiet, “velvet” revolution within Spanish society, resolving issues swept under the rug since the country’s civil war in the 1930s.