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Wednesday, 26 January, 2000, 11:57 GMT
Spain: Return to violence
The Spanish government have blamed the two car bomb explosions in Madrid on the Basque separatist group, ETA.
If confirmed, this marks the first attack by ETA since it ended its ceasefire last month - and the first killing since June 1998.
What are your fears now for the future? What can be done to prevent a return to the cycle of violence?
The Basques have always pertained to Spain. Since the time of Ferdinand and Isabella. They pertained to Castile back then and should continue to pertain to Spain now. Southerners in the USA are different from Northerners, but they are both American. The same in the UK Scots and Englishmen are different but we are both still British.
Jonathan Smith, UK
I only want to say that I've been living in Spain for more than five years. Basque people suffer no oppression. They have the same rights, treated the same (even better, paying less taxes) than other Spaniards. Not more than 20-30% of the Basques want independence. Independent Basques want Navarra to form part of the Basque country. People from Navarra want to be from Navarra, and from Spain. Basque people can democratically express their ideas in the different elections.
As a Basque, it is truly amazing to hear some of the comments that have been posted. Franco has been gone for 25 years and people still talk about his relationship with the Basques. Sorry to those of you who make strong statements with no historical basis. Please go back to school and learn something about the situation!
I think the Basque people should have their homeland "Euskadi". But, I also feel that violence is not the way to do it. Violence by the ETA makes the Basque look like violent people, when we are not. I do understand that sometimes the path to freedom takes bloodshed and sacrifice, as the American revolution and the American civil war. Those 2 wars shape America into what it is today.
Richard Arbizu Jr., USA
I do not support violence in any shape or form, and for any cause. And as a world citizen and a member of the human race, I strongly condemn ETA's actions in Spain. However, as a young Turk, I must admit that I feel a little excited to see how the Spanish government will handle the ETA violence and how will EU characterise ETA, now that the majority of people in the Basque region seem to not support ETA's violence. Given that ETA maintains its "humanist" methods, without much popular support even form its home region, what exactly are they now: freedom fighters or terrorists? The first item on the international bill of human rights is the right to live. What do you do against people (e.g. ETA) who create violence in order to perpetuate violence under flags of rights, freedom, and democracy? Good luck Spain. Good luck Europe.
Argun Saatcioglu, Turkey
It is a mistake to think of ETA as an armed group that has anything resembling a political message or a territorial claim. ETA stated clearly in 1996 (and several times thereafter) that it will respect the will of Basque people (whether expressed via referenda or elected representatives), and demands that Basque people "be given a voice". The politics of nationalism and the projects for greater self-government, such as the Pact of Lizarra (1998) are on the hands of the elected Basque parties and it is undisputedly their prerogative to deal with the complexities of the present (and future) political framework. Insofar as Spain chooses to pay no heed to recommendations from the UN and various NGO regarding the ill-treatment of ETA prisoners, ETA's anger is bound to backlash in the obvious manner.
Mikel Susperregi, UK
Basques are different from Spanish or French, as Italians are different from Norwegians. As a differentiated community they have the right to have a referendum and decide about themselves. Then, we have two ways: democratic one, following the rules that make us more human and so on, or by other hand, non-democratic way. There have been already 25 years of "democracy" in Spain that has been full of death, torture by the two sides: Spanish and Basque. But although Basques enjoy quite large autonomy, they don't want autonomy. They just want to break the chain from Spain and France. They want to be independent.
What on earth is wrong with giving the Basques their homeland unfettered be the constitution of Spain. In the border free Europe why shouldn't a Basque be able to say I come from Basque, it borders on Spain and France. Are the French and Spaniards so insecure that they must rule politically over other nationalities? Does the fact that Spain and France would be slightly smaller make the French and Spanish less of great people. I think not.
I understand that anyone claiming for the "freedom of his country" receives sympathy from good-hearted people anywhere in the world. But the Basque Country is not an invaded nation, but a founder region of Spain whose people have traditionally enjoyed more privileges than oppression. Even Franco's repression was not worse there than in other areas, and now its degree of self-rule is almost complete. ETA and its supporters employ violence to achieve what they cannot achieve by democratic methods simply because they don't have enough votes. It is from them that we have to help the Basques to get free.
José I. Ronda, Spain
During the years of Franco's repression after the Spanish civil war, the Basques and all other regions within Spain with different cultures and languages suffered terribly. Due to this, there was a higher degree of sympathy towards ETA not just in the Basque country but in Spain as a whole as well. Nowadays the picture is very different. Spain has changed enormously since 1975, when Franco died. The degree of cultural, economic and political autonomy found within the Spanish regions is very high. We are all fed up with this small-minded, backward-looking minority of Basques who are stuck in a historical and psychological black hole. Spain, the regions within it, and Europe as a whole will move forward, with or without ETA.
David Garcia, Spain-UK
Self-determination via referendum would seem to be the answer but would France and Spain being willing to cede territory to a new state?
Mike Barton, England
I think that ETA is wrong to do what they are doing for the reason they are doing it - but unfortunately the Spanish have only themselves to blame - at the end of the lasting peace will only be brought about through true dialogue and in this case such dialogue will have to include ETA in non conditional talks - of that there is no doubt.
Sean O'Hara, UK
The traditional reason for not offering the Basques a referendum on independence was the fear that such a move could spark a military coup. Surely so many years after the transition to democracy in Spain, this no longer passes muster.
Neil Paterson, Scotland
Violence is not an acceptable means to achieve freedom in a democratic society. The Spanish democracy has every right to fight ETA's cowardly actions by political, judicial and police instruments, as long as they are established in the Spanish constitution.
Equally cruel and condemnable as ETA's crimes were those committed by the government-funded GAL against ETA members and sympathisers in the 1980s. The government have been incapable of producing the peace agreement which so many people had hoped for since the start of the cease-fire.
The opposition does not seem any more competent or imaginative. The solution lies in negotiation-the acceptance of changes to the constitution on one side and the renouncement to a petty and unfair mentality of full independence on the other.
What is the real story behind it? Why did the people bomb other? Is there a fair trail, is it just one sided? One million people demonstrate for peace? How about others? Do they not want peace? How is peace negotiated? Are they being heard? I don't understand!
ETA does not represent the Basque Country nor the Basque people. They just represent terrorism and 15% of the Basque population.
Julio C. Leal, Spain
The Spanish constitution doesn't allow the Basque people self-determination, so this constitution should be revised, and then ask the Basques for their needs of independence. I would choose total independence from Spain but no from the EU, and many others too.
Aitor, Basque Country
According to a Guardia Civil officer's own confession, he followed orders to kidnap two Basque youths. They were tortured for a week, had their faces taped up, their finger nails torn off, their thumbs crushed and received numerous other wounds all over their bodies. Finally the two young men were driven 400km away to the holiday resort town of Alicante. Here they were forced to dig their own graves, refused the last rights, shot in the head at point blank range and buried naked with 50kg of quicklime. Now during the first day of the current trial, the Guardia Civil who confessed arrived from the Spanish military prison where he's being held to give evidence. He was in his underwear and drugged. The following day he arrived drugged again and in a wheelchair. The latest shock in this trial came live on Spanish National TV last week. A leading prosecution witness, the police inspector who identified the bodies, dropped dead in the witness box. These are facts! As are the jailing of 20 democratically elected leaders of the Basque political party Herri Batasuna, the closure of the Basque daily newspaper Egin, and the list goes on. Still surprised ETA called off their ceasefire? I'm not.
I recognise the Basque Country's right to self-determination. They have their own government, culture, traditions, language, idiosyncrasy, etc. In fact a typical Spaniard is very different from a Basque or Catalan person in may aspects. But, violence, terrorism, extortion, are not the way to fully reach this identity and autonomy. Killing innocent people is dramatic and not justifiable at all. The Madrid Government in the hands of the Popular Party needs to learn negotiation skills. Nothing is gonna change as long as ETA's designed negotiators are captured by the Police in a traffic control. Without formal or informal meetings between both parties, violence will remain in this community.
Alex Rialp, Catalonia
As Olga Guerin clearly stated in her report, the Spanish Government has not tried (during an 18 month long unilateral truce from ETA) to search the way for a definitive peace. Neither has ever promised, as the British Government did, that Spain would accept what the Basque people would decide about their future in a democratic poll. In between, Amnesty International has just denounced once again that torture and lack of respect for Human Rights continues in Spain against Basque separatists.
The Basque Country has more autonomy than inside any state across Europe. They have their own Police, Taxes, civil laws, Official Language, etc... The problem is that a minority of them have spent all their life killing people and now they do not now how to live with this, if they simply stop killing. They need something to justify their miserable way of life, and even the killers do not know what they need to give up the orgy of blood.
I do not believe it was ETA. I do not see what is that ETA gains, except from total condemnation.
Edwin Snore, Latvia
In my experience of the Basque country, the majority of people are happy with the degree of autonomy that exists at the moment. Furthermore, since the killing of Miguel Angel Blanco in 1997 ETA's support has all but evaporated. I hope that the people of Spain will turn out in their thousands as they did in 1997 to make it clear to ETA that it is a relic of the past and has no place in modern democratic Spain.
Anton Zimmermann, UK
If what all the Basques really want is their political independence, there is no other way but following the democratic rules, and indeed it can be achieved. But in a democratic context like the Spanish, nothing justifies the cold murder of a single human being, absolutely nothing.
Unfortunately I have read some messages from people that don't understand that ETA doesn't exert its violence against the Spanish Government, they use violence mainly against the Basque people, their "own" people and chiefly against their elected representatives in the Basque Councils.
We live in a world that never learns the lessons of the terrible damage and destruction war causes. Isn't it amazing how easy it is to get into war? And, isn't it tough to get out of it? Each generation needs to learn a bloody lesson or two. And, until we as a world community start finding other ways to settle disputes we are not going to do very well.
Dave Adams, USA
ETA is the result of Spanish oppression on the ancient Basque nation. It is the Spanish and French policy that is terrorist. ETA is the reaction of Spanish terrorist action. The western countries must realise that human rights must be respected firstly in their territory. The hypocrisy of the western leaders (self-proclaimed as human rights protectors) on the matter of human rights is maddening.
Defkalion Tsagarakis, Greece
Today is a black day in Spain's history. ETA kills again, and breaks up a long 19-month cease-fire. It's very frustrating to see that ETA doesn't want to hear the Basque society's claim for peace. We all have had enough! We all have suffered enough bombings, kidnappings, extortion, intimidation and menaces.
Oriol SIERRA, France
ETA members are NOT a separatists group. They are just murderers of children and women. The only political answer should be prison for life.
ETA has never wanted to stop killing. In the middle of their "cease fire" they stole 4.000 kgs of explosive in France. How can you negotiate a peace process when you are preparing for war? Besides, the Basque region has a degree of autonomy bigger than any other region in any country of Europe. More than two thirds of the Basque people are against their violence. They are no "Freedom Fighters", they are a band of murderers.
Let's give a chance to DEMOCRACY! The only way to put an end to this conflict is giving the Basques the right to vote on a REFERENDUM to decide if they want or no TOTAL independence. If the Spanish government's theory that just a small minority of Basques want the independence, they surely would do this referendum, but the reason is that a very big piece of the Basque society wants self determination and I almost sure that they are the majority and the Spanish don't want to lose this rich part of "their" country! All the peoples of the world have the right to self determination, from Québec to Tibet, from Catalonia to Scotland etc...
Daniel Taddone, São Paulo - Brasil
People have desired freedom from the beginning of history. Nowadays that desire for freedom is being misrepresented as 'terrorism' by the media, and of course the real agents committing acts of terror are the governments who refuse to respect people's desire for freedom. ETA are fighting for that desire, of the Basque people's freedom, there is nothing new in what they are doing, what is new is the terminology used to suppress the truth of what they are doing. The word "Peace" has become superficial nonsense talked about by people who have grown up in a culture of conquest and feelings of racial supremacy. I doubt whether the Basque people will ever renounce their desire for freedom from oppressive rule, just like liberations struggles over the world, suppressing them will just grow a stronger desire to be free.
Cot Travay, UK
If the Basque country was amalgamated with the Spanish country at any point in time then the Basque rebels are NOT Terrorists but freedom fighters. Amalgamation combined with first-past-the-post voting system automatically negates their fundamental right to govern themselves because they become a minority. A minority that would not be a minority if amalgamation did not take place by force at a earlier date.
Krishan Canagasabey, Ceylon Tamil, UK
I don't pretend to know a great deal about the struggle for independence in the Basque region, but am clearly horrified that ETA feels it has had to resort to violence again to further its cause. Talking through the problems and reaching compromise is the only way to settle differences, no matter how entrenched in your own position you may be. There has been a move towards peace in Northern Ireland which could not have been achieved without major concessions from both sides. Surely this should give other terrorist groups the impetus to talk. Or are they simply not creative enough to do anything other than murder their way through an argument?
The Spanish have got to grow up and recognise the right of the Basques to be free of Spain if they so desire. The same applies to Gibraltar. The same also applies to those who say that Britain does not have the right to leave the so-called "EU"
Tony Robinson, Britain
Does Tony Robinson accept that Northern Ireland should become independent? Would he agree to Scotland's independence if the Scots started planting bombs in London? He asks Spain to "grow up"...to what? Should the terrorists not grow up and realise that violence is not necessary? Or does he actually support terrorism??
I think the real problem is the Spanish governments inability to compromise on the issue pertaining to self-rule. Just a few months ago there was a controversy involved in the freeing of some Puerto-Rican freedom fighters here in the U.S. All I heard about them was that they were killers who had no regard for human life, but not a word about the colonial situation which is detrimental and even deadly (Vieques bombing)to the good people of the Island. Remember, there's two sides to every story.
Rodrigo Lozada, U.S.A.
It was sad to wake up and hear this morning about another senseless killing from ETA. Once again, those cowards from ETA show what they really are...just a group of ordinary murderers. Due to their lower IQ, ETA can't think nor use their reason at all to understand that people are tired of their violence and want to live in a peaceful society in Spain. Enough is enough ETA, lets walk and talk the language of peace!!! ETA, you are far from being heroes fighting for your nation on the contrary, you are terrorists. Politically speaking, terrorism is a dead-end because it brings lot of pain and never reaches any productive political solution. Therefore, say YES to PEACE and democracy...and NO to violence!
Ana Maria Rodriguez-Rojas, Philadelphia, USA
ETA has been given a number of concessions by the Spanish government. The Basque region has a highly devolved government with it's own legislature. ETA has minimal support from the Basques. The Spanish government has no option but to deal with them in the only way that ETA will understand and that is to use force. ETA are clearly not seeking a political solution but wish to carry on, on a orgy of death and destruction.
Mario , UK
The melody that ETA is sending out resembles the misguided message of IRA, previously PLO, some Islamic fanatics' actions and already buried "red" city terrorist organisations. When innocent people are being killed, I fail to understand what the leaders of those organisations think. The way they do it only creates hatred towards their cause. The Spanish government has in these circumstances no alternative but go mercilessly after those "heroes".
Mikko Toivonen, Finland
What can be done to prevent a return to the cycle of violence? Simple - ETA lays down its arms immediately, asks for forgiveness for its inhumanity to man throughout its history and commits itself to democracy. Even then it has no automatic right to participate in peace talks - that should be the joint decision of the true political parties who represent those who have had to endure ETA's acts over the years. Any alternative to this option would be an injustice.
ETA has ignored the wishes of the people whom they purport to represent. Until people are prepared to expose them, there will be no durable peace.
Chris Klein, UK
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