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Spain in shock

Published on 11/03/2004

It is hard to portray the sense of profound shock felt across Spain on Thursday.

No one can have missed the television reports of blood-spattered corpses or the pictures of the injured crying with relief as they called loved ones on mobile phones to explain they are still alive.

Apart from the victims, the cameras showed the mangled wrecks of the three trains that were blown apart at Madrid’s Atocha, El Pozo and Santa Egenia stations.

These were commuter trains, destroyed at rush hour.

And there seems a clear idea — at least in Madrid — that for most people this could have been their fate; they could have been on those trains; it could have been them.

The television reporters do their jobs well but there is a sense from the looks on their faces that they too are trying to digest the whole, awful business.

Away from the scenes of the tragedy in Madrid, in offices, schools and universities across Spain, people have been registering their own shock. Impromptu minutes’ silence have been held as a mark of respect.

King Juan Carlos is to address the nation in a television broadcast Thursday.

Prime minister Jose Maria Aznar has convened an emergency cabinet to try to work out how to deal with the aftermath.

Three days of national mourning have been declared for the victims and there are to be national demonstrations Friday against ETA — the presumed perpetrators of this outrage.

Some have had the temerity to suggest it might not be ETA.

Arnaldo Otegi, leader of the Basque radical political party Batasuna — which is banned due to its links with the terrorist organisation — said he could not imagine the attack was the work of ETA.

Instead, Otegi pointed the finger at “Arabic resistance” movements.

But most doubt this is the case; they believe it was ETA’s deadly handiwork.

Apart from the huge death toll, this fact might explain why Spaniards are so shocked; they thought ETA was all but finished.

A series of important arrests and a relentless campaign against the Basque group by Aznar’s government seemed to have made ETA into something of a joke.

Not any more, it seems.

If indeed this was ETA, then this attack must come as a sickening turning point.

All right-minded people must condemn this slaughter, but beyond that the Spaniards must realise that the specter of the Basque terrorist group must be addressed.

ETA is not willing to lay down its weapons — so the only option is to try to take the group apart.

Graham Keeley
Editor, Expatica Spain

11 March 2004