ETA makes its expected announcement and consigns itself to the history books

An ETA victim group.
An ETA victim group. / SUR
  • The Basque separatist group gave up violence in 2011 but, until now, had continued to exist and victims groups say justice still has to be done

It had been talked about for weeks as imminent, but when it came, on Thursday, afternoon, the formal announcement by ETA that it was consigning itself to the history books caused mixed reactions across Spain as well as a sense of the welcome end of an era.

In its statement, read out by ex-leaders of ETA and first published by media in the Basque Country, the region that it had sought to separate from Spain for 60 years, ETA said it had “totally dissolved its structures”, and was “putting an end to its historic cycle and function”.

Although ETAhad given up its violent terrorist activities in 2011, it is only in the past weeks that it has been publicly known that it was taking steps to disband.

On 20 April the group admitted the damage it had caused over its six decades and it promised to come to terms with the consequences of the conflict and not to repeat it. However in that declaration last month it was criticised for only apologising for the harm to some of the victims.

At an event in the French Basque Country on Friday (today) there will be a symbolic winding-up ceremony involving a local notary.

On Wednesday this week the group had alerted media that it was preparing to make an announcement the next day and provoked reaction from across the country in anticipation of Thursday’s declaration.

The Spanish government said that, despite the dissolution of the group, it would pursue wanted terrorists “wherever they are”. Interior minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido said that there “will be no sort of immunity”. “Before and after this communiqué they will be sought out,” he added. He explained that Madrid would still be looking for cooperation from former ETA members in the more than 300 unsolved terrorist crimes.

Between the first murder, in 1968, of a Guardia Civil officer and the last, of a French policemen in 2010, the death toll linked to ETA’s campaign for a separate, Marxist-inspired Basque state,reached 853.

On Wednesday, relatives of victims of the terrorism and Basque intellectuals presented a manifesto calling on Madrid to do more to bring the terrorists to justice and not to allow them to “reset the counter back to zero.”

Consuelo Ordóñez, sister of a conservative politician murdered by ETAin 1995, said that, despite the end of terrorism, “it mustn’t be forgotten that serving in public institutions there are “not only the political heirs of the gunmen, but the ideologues.” “ETAhas put an end to its history, doesn’t mean that it is deactivating its political project.”

Costa del Sol remembers too

During its six decades of violence, the spectre of ETAwas also present in Malaga and the Costa del Sol. Among incidents etched on locals’ memories are the 2000 murder of Malaga councillor, José María Martín Carpena, and numerous bombings and attempted bombings along the coast. The last time was in August 2008 when three bombs were placed in Benalmádena and near the airport.