By Madison Feser
The Basque separatist group Basque Homeland and Freedom (ETA) killed over 820 people, staged hundreds of shootings, and orchestrated dozens of kidnappings, as reported by The Guardian. ETA, operating in Spain in France since its founding in 1959, promised complete disarmament by April 8.
ETA declared indefinite ceasefires three times in their nearly 60 years of existence, but it was not until 2011 that the violence really ended. According to The New York Times, this unreliability, coupled with past conditions of disarmament, has led Spanish officials to view ETA’s announcement with caution.
Previous attempts made by the Spanish and French governments to disarm ETA have failed, due to ETA conditioning their surrender of weapons with altered prison sentences of their incarcerated fighters, reports The Washington Post.
Spanish officials warn ETA that they will not make concessions, and that complete disbanding of the militant group should follow the disarmament. The Washington Post reports that during a Populist Party meeting, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that, in addition to ETA’s disarming and disbanding, “the government of Spain will do what it has always done — to apply the law, which is the same for everybody.”
The Interior Minister of Spain, Juan Ignacio Zoido, agreed with Rajoy, tweeting that “what ETA must do is dissolve itself and disappear. It has had time to disarm and it must know that it won’t get anything in exchange,” according to BBC. No concessions will be made, and anyone incarcerated for their involvement with ETA will continue serving their full sentences.
Txetx Etcheverry, a member of the French Basque Separatist community, told The Associated Press that ETA wants to disarm and discuss other issues essential to Basque peace, including the future of imprisoned ETA members. He never mentioned the possibility, however, of disbanding the already weakened group.
ETA, which both the United States and European Union consider a terrorist organization, has lost much of its power in recent years due to government raids resulting in hundreds of arrests and the seizure of weapons stashes, according to Reuters.
Spanish officials say that if the April 8 disarmament holds, it will serve mainly as a symbolic gesture, considering ETA lost its status as a national threat after the arrest of its leader, Mikel Irastorza, in November.
Now an economically powerful semi-autonomous region in Spain and France, the Basque Country suffered under Franco’s regime. The Basque language was banned, the culture suppressed, and anyone who disobeyed and participated in Basque culture was subject to kidnapping and torture.
ETA was founded as a student resistance movement against the oppression of the Basque people. The death of Franco, however, did not end their campaign, as reported by the BBC.
ETA led the deadliest part of its campaign in the late 1970s, killing nearly 100 people every year. 300 of those murder cases remain unsolved to this day. After the July 1997 kidnapping and murder of 29-year-old Miguel Angel Blanco, local councilor for the Basque’s ruling Popular Party, over 6 million people across Spain took to the streets in protest.
The massive movement against ETA violence led to the group’s first declaration of ceasefire in 1998. Despite the many failed ceasefires and broken promises of disarmament, ETA has not killed anyone in Spain since 2009 or in France since 2010.