surinenglish

8 May 2000: King Juan Carlos I joins protests against ETA

The king and queen on the balcony of Jerez de la Frontera town hall.
The king and queen on the balcony of Jerez de la Frontera town hall. / SUR
  • The death of Basque journalist José Luis López de Lacalle sparked outrage across the country in the days after his murder

Then King Juan Carlos I and his wife Queen Sofía joined tens of thousands of Spaniards on 8 May 2000 in a silent protest in defiance of recent murders carried out by Basque separatist group ETA.

"The murder of the word" is how they described the recent shooting of Basque journalist José Luis López de Lacalle on the morning of 7 May as he walked home having gone to buy the newspaper and have breakfast at a nearby café.

López was a socialist and had been the target of previous ETA attacks before the one that took his life.

This was the first time that the king and queen had joined in any type of protest against the terrorist group.

They joined in from the balcony of Jerez de la Frontera town hall and stood with a crowd which had congregated outside the building at 12pm for a five-minute vigil.

Across the country similar gatherings took place throughout the afternoon to coincide with the journalist's funeral.

Only the then Prince of Asturias, Felipe (now the king) had participated in a similar act in Brussels.

Speaking from Morocco where he was on an official visit at the time, then prime minister José María Aznar urged the Basque government, led by Juan José Ibarretxe, to bring forward elections in the region as in Aznar's opinion Ibarretxe's leadership had brought the Basque Country to a situation of minimalist democracy.

He condemned the murder of José Luis López de Lacalle, saying "It is not acceptable to generate a climate in which physical violence is used against people who only want to live democratically and in peace and liberty."

On 12 May a protest took place under the name "No nos callarán" (they won't silence us), fuelled by de López's death and organised by the directors of the main Spanish newspapers. The protest sent a message condemning all violence at the hands of ETA in general.