Thousands to protest against deals with ETA
24 February 2006, MADRID — Thousands were expected to protest on the streets of Madrid against any negotiations with the Basque terrorist group ETA.
24 February 2006
MADRID — Thousands were expected to protest on the streets of Madrid against any negotiations with the Basque terrorist group ETA.
The Victims of Terrorism Association and the opposition Popular Party have called a demonstration in Madrid on Saturday against any negotiations with the terrorist group.
They are opposed to Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's plan hold peace talks with ETA, provided they give up their armed struggle.
In a bitter parliamentary debate last week, Zapatero repeatedly stated his government would not hold talks on sovereignty for the Basque region and he will not make concessions to bring an end to ETA terrorism.
The Spanish premier made his remarks after expectations were raised last week that the Basque terrorist group would declare a ceasefire.
On Saturday, ETA issued a statement in which it said it was time to "take steps" on the future of the Basque region, but made no mention of a truce.
During Zapatero's appearance before parliament, the opposition Popular Party (PP) leader Mariano Rajoy questioned if the prime minister would enter into negotiations on Basque sovereignty, a possibility Zapatero categorically rejected.
Rajoy said Zapatero not only faced criticism from the PP but also from victims of terrorism, and said that regrettably it appeared "he is looking to achieve a truce at any cost".
In response, Zapatero accused the conservative PP of spreading lies that were damaging to the prospects for peace.
He also said failure to tell the truth was unwise politically, noting that Rajoy would be able to confirm that by looking back on recent events.
"You led us into war with lies (alluding to Spain's participation in the Iraq war under his predecessor, Jose Maria Aznar, of the PP) and now you want to put lies in the way of peace prospects that are as difficult to achieve as they are necessary and desired and put even more lies (in the way of) the stability, future and cohesion of Spain, which is fully safeguarded by democracy and the will of the citizenry," Zapatero said.
Zapatero's mention of political costs were an apparent reference to the PP's defeat in 2004 general elections just days after deadly train bombings in Madrid killed almost 200 people.
The results of the vote seemed to indicate that Spanish voters intended to punish the then-government for supporting the Iraq war, which was overwhelmingly opposed by the general public, and also possibly for being so quick to blame ETA for the deadly bombings.
It later emerged Islamic extremists were behind the worst terrorist attack in Spain's history.
Zapatero's mention of lies affecting the peace process with ETA apparently referred to the PP's claim that the Socialist government is manipulating the parole process in favour of some of the hundreds of ETA militants jailed over the last two decades.
Rajoy has accused the Zapatero administration of paroling ETA members to create a positive climate for talks.
More broadly, the conservatives suggest the government is already engaged in secret negotiations with the Basque extremists.
In May, the lower house of parliament authorized the executive branch to hold talks with ETA, provided the latter declared an end to violence.
ETA has killed more than 830 people during its nearly four-decade-old struggle, although it has not carried out any deadly attacks since May 2003.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news