Basque secessionists say political fight goes on

21st October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spain's leftist pro-Basque independence movement Friday welcomed ETA's declaration of an end to violence but said the political fight for self-determination goes on.

A spokesman for the movement, once represented by the now outlawed ETA political wing Batasuna, said the the ETA announcement Thursday "supposes a before and after".

The end of armed action by ETA "does not suppose the end of the political conflict," spokesman Maribi Ugarteburu told a joint news conference with the movement's leader, Rufino Etxeberria.

The French and Spanish governments should "respond to this historic opportunity without delay," he said in a Spanish-language statement previously delivered by Etxeberria in Basque.

In Thursday's video announcement, three white-hooded ETA militants brought an end to a campaign that has claimed 829 lives since its birth in 1959 during General Francisco Franco's dictatorship.

ETA, classed as a terrorist group by the European Union and United States, vowed a "definitive" end to armed action but bemoaned the loss of its own militants, not its victims.

"The cruelty of the fight has taken away the lives of many comrades. Many others are still suffering in prison and in exile," it said.

It called on the Spanish and French governments to open direct dialogue with the aim of "addressing the resolution of the consequences of the conflict and, thus, to overcome the armed confrontation".

"Today, just like yesterday, there is still a political conflict that needs political solutions," Ugarteburu said, blaming Paris and Madrid for "denying the recognition and right to decide of the Basque nation."

"The denial of the national reality of the Basque nation and its right to decide are the historical seed of the political conflict and without overcoming this denial it will not be possible to open a fully democratic framework in this country," he said.

"These are the main causes of the existence of this conflict, which from today no-one can disguise behind the alibi of the armed struggle."

The Basque separatists called for a final decision to be placed "in the hands of the citizens," referring to a standing demand by moderate and radical nationalists for a referendum on independence.

Severely weakened by Spanish and French security forces, which detained successive waves of its leadership, ETA has launched no attack on Spanish soil since August 2009.

With the violent struggle waning, the fight seemed to be making greater progress through peaceful politics.

A new alliance of Basque separatist parties -- Bildu -- caused a major upset by beating Spain's ruling Socialist Party in municipal elections in May this year.

Bildu was allowed to field candidates only after a court battle to prove it was not a mouthpiece for ETA whose political wing, Batasuna, had been ruled illegal in 2003.

© 2011 AFP

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