22 February 2000: ETA kills leader of Basque socialist party

The van moments after it exploded.
The van moments after it exploded. / SUR

  • The politician and his bodyguard were walking through the university campus in Vitoria-Gasteiz when a van packed with 20 kilogrammes of explosives was detonated

On Tuesday 22 February 2000, the separatist terrorist group, ETA, murdered Spanish politician Fernando Buesa Blanco. At the time of his death, Buesa was leader of the PSE-EE (Basque Socialist Party) in Álava. He died while walking through the university campus in Vitoria-Gasteiz, when a van packed with 20 kilos of explosives was detonated, killing Buesa and his 26-year-old bodyguard, Jorge Díez Elorza.

Considered one of the top players and most influential members of the Basque Socialist Party, Buesa initiated an important political and social agreement that laid the groundwork for the final reorganisation and standardisation of the educational system of the Basque country.

Born in Bilbao in 1946, Buesa studied law in Madrid and Barcelona and practised from 1970 to 1986 in Vitoria-Gasteiz. He was a councillor in Vitoria-Gasteiz (1983-97), a member of the parliament of the Basque Country (1984-2000) and leader of Álava provincial council (1987-91). He was also deputy president of the Basque government and minister of Education in a coalition PSE-Basque Nationalist Party Basque government from 1991 to 1994.

In his tireless capacity for work, he defended the position of the Socialists on the violations of fundamental rights in the Basque Country, such as the right to life and freedom. Like other political figures in the Basque Country, Buesa was being protected by the Interior Ministry in anticipation of a possible ETA attack.

ETA had killed hundreds of people since starting its fight for Basque independence in 1968. Buesa, who was 53, was the first of two Spanish politicians killed by the terrorist group in 2000. The second was Ernest Lluch, a former cabinet minister shot dead in Barcelona on 21 November.

The terrorists, who were waiting for Buesa as he left his home at around 4.30pm, triggered the explosion just seconds after he had said goodbye to his son.

The murder caused outcry among the Spanish politicians. Prime Minister José María Aznar, said at the time, "We will fight terrorists with the weapons of the law and democracy. Citizens want answers that will bring those who committed this crime to justice."

Following his death, the Araba Sports Arena in Vitoria-Gasteiz, home of Baskonia, Buesa's favourite basketball team, was renamed the Fernando Buesa Arena.

His killing inspired a documentary by Basque filmmaker Eterio Ortega Santillana. The 90-minute film, titled Assassination in February, premiered in Cannes in 2001 and reflected on the problems of Basque society. Buesa was married and had three children.