18 February 2004
BILBAO – The armed Basque separatist group ETA announced a ceasefire Wednesday in Catalonia.
In a video, broadcast on the Basque EITB public radio and television network, two purported ETA members wearing hoods declared the terrorist group had ceased armed operations in Catalonia as of 1 January.
ETA said it decided to cease “armed actions” in the northeastern region out of “respect – not foreign interference – and solidarity”.
The group said the ceasefire was implemented in the hopes of uniting the Basque and Catalan peoples.
In the announcement, entitled “Catalunya-Euskalherria (Catalonia-Basque Country): Solidarity and respect”, the separatist group said it decided in the 1980s to carry out attacks in Catalonia against Spanish and French interests, but that changes in the political climate were taken into consideration in the decision to cease hostilities.
The ceasefire comes after recent meetings in France between ETA members and Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira, leader of the left-wing ERC, which advocates Catalan independence from Spain.
These meetings, which were made public last month, caused a scandal and forced the exit of Carod-Rovira from the regional Catalan government, which is headed by socialist Pasqual Maragall.
Following the news of ETA’s initiative, leaders of all the Catalan political parties decided to meet in Barcelona.
Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar said Wednesday the ETA truce had political implications for the opposition socialist PSOE party.
Aznar claimed the socialist PSOE party should cut links with the left-wing Catalan ERC party.
In Catalonia, the PSOE forms part of a three-party pact with the ERC and another party to hold power.
But Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, leader of the PSOE, attacked Aznar’s conservative Popular Party for trying to make political capital out of the truce.
ETA, which stands for Basque Homeland and Freedom, has been seeking independence for Spain’s Basque region for more than four decades and uses terrorist tactics to pressure the Spanish government.
More than 800 people have died in attacks staged by the group since it formed in 1959.
Recently, a hard-line campaign by the conservative government of Jose Maria Aznar against ETA has seen a number of arrests of its leaders.
Security sources recently said it had reached “crisis point”.
Since ETA launched its first terrorist attack in Catalonia in June 1975, the group has killed 54 people in the region.
The most recent victim, Catalan regional police officer Santos Santamaria, died in a car-bomb attack March 17, 2001, in Rosas, Girona.
The terrorist group’s bloodiest attack in Catalonia was the June 1987 bombing of the Hipercor shopping center in Barcelona, which killed 21 people.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news