International

Basque Separatists' Cease-Fire Declaration Not Sufficient, Says Spain

A screen capture made from an ETA video announcing a permanent, verifiable ceasefire after more than 40 years of bloodshed in their fight for a homeland independent of Spain. i i

A screen capture made from an ETA video announcing a permanent, verifiable ceasefire after more than 40 years of bloodshed in their fight for a homeland independent of Spain. HO/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption HO/AFP/Getty Images
A screen capture made from an ETA video announcing a permanent, verifiable ceasefire after more than 40 years of bloodshed in their fight for a homeland independent of Spain.

A screen capture made from an ETA video announcing a permanent, verifiable ceasefire after more than 40 years of bloodshed in their fight for a homeland independent of Spain.

HO/AFP/Getty Images

As we reported earlier, over the weekend the Basque separatist group ETA called for a "permanent and general" ceasefire in Spain's northern region and France's southwest region.

Since it was formed in 1959 to advocate for Basque independence, ETA has been responsible for more than 800 deaths in Spain. The New York Times reports that ETA hasn't killed on Spanish soil for more than a year.

In its analysis, El País, Spain's most prominent newspaper, notes that there are a few firsts in this latest cease-fire declaration: First, writes Luis Aizpeolea, ETA promises that they will cease both "extortion" and "street violence." Second, and perhaps most important, ETA commits indefinitely to a political process that puts an end to "armed confrontation."

The Spanish government reacted swiftly, saying this was more of the same from ETA, which walked away from a cease fire in March of 2006. Spain's Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said it was not the news they were expecting. The New Times reports:

In a brief televised statement, Mr. Rubalcaba said that the government would continue to demand an unconditional surrender. “ETA continues to pretend that the end of the violence has a price,” he said. “If you ask me whether I am more relaxed today than yesterday, honestly I would say yes. If you ask if this is the end, no. Is this what Spanish society expected? Clearly no.”

In September, the government rejected a similar though less wide-ranging cease-fire declaration because ETA, which the European Union and the United States consider a terrorist organization, had not offered to hand over weapons nor had it described the cease-fire as permanent.

This time around, ETA also did not offer up its weapons. But El País notes the bigger problem is that the cease fire is reversible and it's based upon a series of political presumptions like the right of the Basque country to decided its own fate and its right to separate from Spain and France.

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