Spanish PM hails victory for democracy over ETA
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero declared victory for democracy Thursday after armed Basque separatists ETA vowed an end to 40 years of violence.
"For many years, for too many years, we have suffered and fought terror, we have done so until a path to democratic reason was opened definitively," he said in a television address after the ETA announcement.
"The actions of the justice system, the intelligence services and many other public servants have contributed to this end," said the prime minister, who is in his final weeks of power before November 20 general elections.
"Let us live today the legitimate satisfaction of a victory for democracy, law and reason, a satisfaction stained by the unforgettable memory of the pain caused by a violence which should never have occurred and which should never return," he said.
After two terms in office the Spanish premier has decided not to run in next month's general election, widely expected to deliver power to the conservative opposition Popular Party.
But he will doubtless see ETA's fall as a crowning achievement for his Socialist Party government, which has been assailed for its handling of Spain's economic plight and towering jobless numbers.
Zapatero's former interior minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba is the Socialist candidate running an uphill battle against the runaway poll leader, opposition chief Mariano Rajoy.
Rubalcaba was widely respected while in office for his uncompromising attitude to ETA, which is blamed for 829 deaths, but it is unclear if ETA's demise will have any impact on the election result.
The Popular Party has warned the government not to play politics with ETA policy.
But the prime minister paid tribute to Rubalcaba without actually naming him.
"I think it is just to remember at this time the work by the various interior ministers, particularly those who have accompanied me in this period," Zapatero said.
Spain's leader gave special thanks to France and President Nicolas Sarkozy whose security cooperation is seen as having removed any safe haven for ETA and hastened the end of its violence.
© 2011 AFP