Spanish press blasts ETA ceasefire declaration as a 'farce'

6th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spain's press Monday savaged a ceasefire declaration by Basque separatists ETA as a political ploy to let it take part in municipal elections next year.

Newspapers said the fighters were desperate to buy time and reorganise after a police crackdown.

"ETA offers a farce of a ceasefire to gatecrash the municipal elections," conservative daily ABC headlined on its front page below a photograph of three hooded ETA members in the video announcement.

In recent years the Spanish government has banned any party seen as sympathising with ETA from taking part in elections in the Basque region because of the outfit's use of violence.

ETA is blamed for over 800 deaths in its 42-year campaign for an independent homeland from Spain.

Spain outlawed ETA's political wing Batasuna in 2003 and has done the same to other political allies since. Batasuna vowed in February only to use non-violent means and has called on ETA to do the same.

In Sunday's declaration, ETA said it had decided several months ago that it "will not carry out armed offensive actions".

But newspapers said it deliberately failed to say if this was permanent end to the decades-long campaign of violence.

"If the separatist organisation chose this ambiguous and limited formulation at this moment, it is without a doubt because it needs to gain time, both because of the police pressure it faced as well as because of the political price violence entails," centre-right daily El Mundo wrote.

The newspaper called ETA's declaration a "tactical pseudo-ceasefire" and it recalled that the outfit took advantage of its two previous ceasefires to "reorganise and rearm".

Left-wing daily Publico agreed.

"It is possible that these steps could lead further. Hopefully. But for now ETA is trying to save enough time with a statement that gives the bare minimum to allow Batasuna to make new political movements," the paper said.

Conservative daily ABC added that ETA's announcement failed to offer anything concrete beyond the ceasefire because it wanted to show it could be a negotiating partner, "all with the hope that the government will make the first move".

Spain's largest circulation daily El Pais echoed the view of the government that the ceasefire declaration was "insufficient" and only the permanent abandonment of arms on the part of ETA would be sufficient.

But the left-wing newspaper also saw reasons for optimism in ETA's announcement.

"ETA can be overcome and the latest statement from the organisation clearly demonstrates it. The effectiveness of the rule of law and the 'zero tolerance' of police, unlike the mistakes carried out in the past, led to the announcement of this alleged ceasefire," it said.

The authorities have taken a hard line against ETA since the outfit in June 2007 formally called off a "permanent ceasefire" it declared in March of the previous year, arresting dozens of its members including several leaders.

Catalan newspaper El Periodico said it saw two reasons to be positive about the ceasefire announcement.

"First of all, because the fact that ETA announced that it will not kill -- that it will respect the primary human right, the right to life -- is good news," it wrote.

"Secondly because this statement -- despite its stupid phrasing -- indicates that ETA is heading in the right direction. That it is beginning to admit its own defeat," the paper added.

© 2010 AFP

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