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ETA Lays Down Arms

October 25, 2011

News arrived on Sunday that ETA (the armed Basque resistance) has decided to lay down its arms and pursue their goals by political means.  This announcement has been met by much skepticism by those who have lost family or friends to the violence.  ETA has called “ceasefire” called before and then broken it in a very short time period.  In 2006 during the last ceasefire, ETA bombed the Barajas Airport in Madrid, killing two people. This time could be different with increasing pressure on the group resulting in growing cooperation between Spanish and French officials.

Whether the group is laying down its arms out of choice or necessity is still up in the air. Since the cooperation between France and Spain has commenced, it is estimated that those involved with ETA are on borrowed time before being arrested.  The efficiency of police forces has dealt serious blows to the group’s strategy of attracting new recruits and financing.

A more skeptical person can draw two things from the “definitive end to four decades of violence” in Spain and France. The first is that the infrastructure of ETA is so weak that they do not have the financial or logistical clout to carry out successful attacks without being intercepted by the police first. If ETA is struggling to survive being underground, becoming mainstream is their next option.  The second is that ETA does not wish to terminate the organization, just the armed conflict. This means that psychologically they still have the wish to exist and be recognized. If ETA members are not treated as negotiation partners by the Spanish and French governments then reverting to violence could be a strong possibility.

Spain’s Socialist Party might not be willing to make concessions to ETA for laying down their arms with sensitive elections happening in November with the conservative Popular Party looking to gain control of Parliament.  The release or relocation of hundreds of ETA prisoners to the Basque country and legalizing their perceived political party Batasuna could both be possibilities. Whether ETA is serious about this ceasefire remains to be seen, but even the talk about ending the violence is good for Spain who looks to put this issue in their past.

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