Spain's press rejects ETA ceasefire as ploy

11th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

The armed Basque secessionist movement ETA declared a "permanent" ceasefire as a pure political ploy but it also opened a crack in the doorway to peace, Spain's press said Tuesday.

Newspapers cast scorn on much of the ETA statement, which made no mention of disbanding or disarming.

Three ETA members in white hoods and traditional black Basque berets declared in a statement and video Monday a "permanent and general ceasefire", to be verified by the international community.

They called on Spain and France to end "repressive measures" and abandon their attitude of "denial" towards the Basque Country; and they urged Basque people to agree on a future with independence as a possibility.

But the centre-right daily El Mundo said ETA's statement was just an attempt to lift a ban on its political wing Batasuna in time for municipal elections in May.

ETA "maintains the same demands that have led it to kill over 800 people and it is obvious that it is offering the ceasefire as a tactical move to try to return to political institutions," it said.

Conservative newspaper ABC said the only novelty in the group's message -- which it deemed "laughable" -- was the offer to make the ceasefire internationally verifiable.

"You just have to recall how the IRA tricked the international commission charged with controlling its arsenals whenever it wanted," ABC said in an editorial.

Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero rejected the declaration Monday, demanding ETA disband and obey the law.

His deputy, Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, said ETA's call fell short of Spain's demands for an irreversible, definitive end to violence, but he also said it was not bad news.

El Pais, the centre-left daily with the largest circulation, urged the government to maintain a hard-line against ETA, adopted since the group called off its last ceasefire in June 2007.

ETA announced a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006 within the framework of negotiations with Madrid. But nine months later, it set off a bomb in the car park of Madrid-Barajas airport, killing two men.

"The crack which has opened is the result of an anti-terrorism policy that involves police efficiency and the resistance on the part of the government to give in to demands that it lower its requirements to allow (Batasuna's) legalisation," El Pais said.

"There are reasons therefore to celebrate, and also to maintain that policy," it added.

French and Spanish police pressed on with their crackdown on the group, swooping in a dawn raid Tuesday on a man suspected of aiding ETA in computer encryption of its communications.

Police detained 27-year-old computer expert Iraitz Guesalaga in the southern French town of Ciboure while his girlfriend was picked up across the Spanish border in the beach town of Zarautz.

A Spanish interior ministry official said the man was suspected of providing encryption aid to the group, and police were also investigating possible links with Colombia's FARC guerrilla group.

The operation had begun several months before and was not linked with the ETA declaration, the official said.

© 2011 AFP

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