Spain destroys Basque separatist group ETA weapons
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Thursday presided over a ceremony to destroy over 1,000 guns, riffles and other weapons seized over the years from Basque separatist group ETA, which disbanded in 2018.
A steamroller slowly drove over three rows of weapons laid out in the courtyard of a Guardia Civil police barracks south of Madrid as representatives of associations of victims of terrorism and law enforcement agencies which fought against the group watched.
“We have just witnessed an act of great symbolism in that long fight against terrorism that was so painful for our country,” the Socialist premier said.
“We will not be able to recover the lives that were lost, nor will we be able to erase the dark past as we have now destroyed these weapons, but we can fight against forgetfulness and repair the pain and honour” of the victims, he added.
Ninety percent of the nearly 1,400 weapons which were destroyed were seized from ETA between 1977 and 2005 and the remaining 10 percent belonged to Grapo, an armed far-left group which is no longer active.
The weapons will now be melted down and transformed into a monument symbolising the end of ETA, which is accused of killing over 850 people during its four-decade campaign for an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southern France.
Sanchez said the destruction of the weapons was “a new celebration of ETA’s rout in the face of Spanish democracy, the rout of bullets in the of face ballot papers.”
The head of the Memorial Centre for Victims of Terrorism in Spain’s Basque Country, Florencio Dominguez Iribarren, said: “Behind these pistols, rifles and machine guns, there are many tragedies, many victims, which we must remember.”
Some associations of victims boycotted the ceremony, as did the main opposition conservative Popular Party (PP), which called the event “propaganda”.
They are angered by the support Sanchez’s minority leftist coalition government receives from Basque separatist party Bildu, which includes former ETA members in its ranks.
They also oppose the transfer of jailed ETA members to prisons closer to the Basque Country, which they argue has increased under Sanchez’s government.