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ETA Bows to Changed Political Landscape With Cease 2006 March

ETA Bows to Changed Political Landscape With Cease 2006 March

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Interview to Jerome Sokolovsky in 2006
Interview to Jerome Sokolovsky in 2006

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Published by: Juan José Alonso Tresguerres on Dec 29, 2010
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NPR March 23, 2006
ETA Bows to Changed PoliticalLandscape with Cease-fire
by Jerome Socolovsky – March 23, 2006To listen to the audioThe Basque separatist group ETA bows to a changing political landscape inSpain -- where political solutions have become more effective than violentsolutions -- and announces a permanent cease-fire. The announcementapparently ends a decades-long campaign of violence against the governmentin Madrid. Renee Montagne talks to reporter Jerome Socolovsky.RENEE MONTAGNE, host:This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.One of Western Europe's last armed movements could be at an end, with theannouncement by the Basque separatist group ETA that it's calling apermanent cease-fire. The truce is set to begin hours from now. The Spanishgovernment is heading into negotiations with ETA on the future of thenorthern Basque region. ETA has been fighting for years to make itindependent. Over the past four decades, ETA guerillas have taken the livesof more than 800 people, among them judges, politicians and journalists.Reporter Jerome Socolovsky is traveling in the Basque region, and he joins menow. Hello.JEROME SOCOLOVSKY reporting:
Good morning, Renee.MONTAGNE: So, is this the beginning of the end of the violence there?SOCOLOVSKY: Well, we have to keep in mind that ETA has been using violenceas a means to its end for nearly 40 years. They've also declared cease-firesbefore, and cancelled them after negotiations with the government brokedown. So, a lot of people here are mistrustful not only of ETA's intentions, butthey're not sure that this will actually lead to a permanent ceasefire. Butthere is a lot of optimism, because this is the first time ETA uses the termpermanent.And ETA is a hierarchical structure. It's not like Islamic terrorist groups, wherethe leaders often don't have control of the people beneath them. When I'vebeen in the Basque country before, talking to young people who maysympathize with ETA, they all seem to trust what the leadership of the groupsays they should be doing.
Take a step back just for a moment here, Jerome, andgive us a small history of the campaign for self-rule in the Basque region orindependence.SOCOLOVSKY: Well, the actual campaign for self-rule goes back more than 100years to the beginnings of Basque nationalism as a movement. ETA actuallystarted as a group in the 1950s, during the dictatorship of General FranciscoFranco in Spain. And, at first, they were seen as a resistance group. Evenafter they resorted to violence. They actually killed the prime minister underFranco, who was supposed to be his successor as leader of Spain. And somepeople even believe that ETA helped move Spain forward to democracy.But after the return to democracy, ETA continued with its attacks, and someof them became very bloody, and the group fell out of favor with manySpaniards, and with many Basques as well.MONTAGNE:
And two years ago, the attacks on Madrid's commuter trainthat killed 200 people were initially linked by the government to ETA. Did, inthe end, ETA have anything to do with those attacks?SOCOLOVSKY: Well, indeed, the prime minister at the time, José María Aznar,in the first few days after the attacks, was squarely blaming ETA. And now,some people on the far right still suggest that ETA had some sort of role, butthe investigations don't seem to point in that direction. What manycommentators here are saying is that the attacks do have some sort of link tothis, in that it created an even greater wave of revulsion against terrorismhere in Spain, that ETA is now recoiling from using those methods.But I think what's interesting here is that, at the time, you had a very hard-lined government clamping down on ETA through every possible means. Andnow there's a government that's more open to dialogue. So, it's almost like abad cop, good cop situation that has led to this.MONTAGNE:
And does this have any implications for other places inSpain, like Catalonia, that have been seeking autonomy?SOCOLOVSKY: Well, it's all one package deal, it seems. A lot of people aresaying it's not a coincidence that ETA announced ceasefire a day after anagreement was reached on a self-rule statute for another region, Catalonia,which is where Barcelona is. And in that statute, the government agreed tocall Catalonia a nationality. This is something the Basques have wanted for along time. They also want a new statute that gives them even more self-rulethan the considerable self-rule they have now. They have their own policeforce, their own parliament. They even have their own president.MONTAGNE:
And finally, the reaction among the people of Spain?SOCOLOVSKY: Well, in Spain, there's a mixture of euphoria and skepticism ormistrust. A lot of people have been waiting for years, if not decades to hear

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