The Basque city of Bilbao is bracing itself to see what the ending of ETA’s 15-month-old ceasefire will bring. Midnight in Spain came and went and with it the separatists’ warning to take up arms again and to defend the area with “weapons on all fronts”.
Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has been quick to condemn ETA’s move: “Spanish society has shown over a long period that pain does not sap its strength, that suffering does not reduce its determination. It will show that determination all over again now, and it will not give in to any of the threats or the challenges some are keen on putting it through.”
ETA declared a so-called permanent truce in March last year and continued to insist that it still held despite a bomb that killed two people at Madrid airport in December, but Spain’s Socialist government was not convinced and after that attack it broke off peace talks.
Even Batasuna, the banned Basque separatist party said to be ETA’s political ally has been cautious in its response.
Its leader Arnaldo Ortegi said: “If it is true that ETA is responsible for breaking the ceasefire, it is also true that the Spanish government and the Basque Nationalist Party are also to blame for the collapse of the so-called peace process.”
With Spain’s security services on alert it is also bad news for Spain’s prime minister, who last year attracted much public and political criticism for holding exploratory peace talks in the first place.