17 days ago, the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) or in English, Basque Homeland and Freedom, declared its 12th ceasefire. The bulk of the armed separatist group, founded in early 1960, is currently quartered in the Basque Country. The ETA is held to be responsible for 829 deaths in its pursuit of an independent Basque between the borders of France and Spain. The ETA, listed as a terrorist organization on the watch-lists of the European Union and the United States, offered the Spanish government a ceasefire on September 5th only to have its offer spurned by the Spanish government.
As bombings, shootings, extortions, and abductions got out of hand, the government of Spain in cooperation with an eager French government started to break down the ETA in the mid 1990′s taking over 600 ETA members as prisoners and crippling some of the organization’s abilities to carry out its terrorist operations. Previously, France was very lenient towards the ETA which allowed the leadership of the Basque Homeland and Freedom to take shelter in “French” Basque Country. Although the ETA has been steadily pushed out of their strongholds and has rapidly declined in political influence over parts of Spain, extreme-right factions inside the ETA showed recent terrorist activity that has put Spain on “high-alert”.
Spain’s government warned the ETA that there will be no progress unless the separatists disavow a part of their mantra: armed struggle. While the ETA has not released any statement that implies this ceasefire is ‘genuine’, it said it wished to employ “peaceful, democratic means” to grasp important goals of the Democratic Alternative such as:
- Autonomy for the greater region of the Basque Country
- Amnesty for all ETA members.
- “Complete” ceasefire
On Sunday, the Gara published ETA’s statements that expressed a wish for international mediation of the current conflict between Spain and the Basque Homeland and Freedom. The group supposedly named four primary mediators for peace talks between Spain and itself. The mediators include John Hume, Mary Robinson, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Frederik Willem de Klerk.
Spokespeople for the ETA and outside analysts expressed concerns over this latest development saying it may create a split between the non-violent and violent parts (particularly the political Batasuna which was outlawed by Spain in 2003) of the Basque separatist group. Many have cited the Real Irish Republican Army’s split from the Provisional IRA’s as the possible future scenario for the ETA, a scenario which would drastically isolate and weaken all elements of the separatist organization.