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ETA's show of strength

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ETA's show of strength


Eduardo Puelles holds a unique, if tragic, position in the history of terrorism in Spain. The policeman is the only person murdered by ETA so far this year. He died when his car was blown up last month. It was the seventh terrorist attack since the start of 2009, and a show of force by an organisation which had been seemingly on the ropes after a series of blows struck by the forces of law and order. A few days later, the Spanish government repeated its determination not to talk to terrorists.

“We can be sure that this campaign of violence has cost ETA dearly in terms of the arrest of its members; I repeat that the state has stuck to its task, and will continue to do so, until ETA lays down its weapons once and for all,” said Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba. It was two and a half years ago that any faint hopes of a negotiated settlement collapsed: the attack on Madrid’s Barajas airport killed two people and came just months after ETA had broken the truce it had itself declared with the Spanish state. The devastating attack provoked a radical change of government policy towards the terrorists. “Right now, it is vital, absolutely vital and quite right, that we rebuild and renew the forces of democracy against terrorism,” said Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. “That is what people are demanding. It is also what politicians on all sides are demanding.” Since then, there has been no truce on ETA’s side, and certainly no let-up in the government’s efforts. With international help, notably from France, arrest has followed arrest. In little more than 12 months, four suspected senior ETA commanders were seized. The past year has also seen changes in the Basque Country itself, with a dramatic shift in regional politics. For the first time since democracy returned to Spain in the 1970s, the Basque parliament has a non-nationalist government. The Socialists took power, and the passing over of the baton of authority was a highly-significant moment. The Basque PNV moved into opposition, while parties linked to ETA, including Batasuna, were banned and ruled illegal. That decision by the government in Madrid was ratified by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg after a hearing lasting six years.

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