“Our democracy will be without terrorism but it will not forget.”
This was Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s response to the promise by the Basque separatist group ETA to lay down its weapons forever.
The prime minister spoke of remembering the more than 850 people killed in 51 years of ETA violence.
The first major bomb attack was in 1973, killing Luis Carrero Blanco, the head of the government under the reign of the dictator Franco.
Franco died of ill health in 1975, and Spain became a constitutional monarchy.
With democracy came an amnesty, but many released ETA prisoners took up arms again, to fight for Basque Freedom and Homeland. ETA is the acronym.
In the 1980s, the shootings and bombings accelerated. The worst was in 1987, when 200 kilos of explosives and petrol in a Barcelona supermarket underground car park killed 21 and wounded 45. The ‘Hipercor’ store management had ignored ETA’s phone warning.
The attack marked a change. Till now, the targets had always been police or military.
In Madrid in 1995, six civilians were killed. They worked for the army.
Eight months earlier, the armour plating of his car saved the leader of the conservative PP party in opposition, José María Aznar, from a bomb, though the blast killed a bystander. Any politician with the Socialist party in power was also a target.
Remote detonation of car bombs was common. But there was also execution at point blank range.
A former head of the Spanish constitutional court, Francisco Tomás Valiente, was on the phone in his university office in Madrid when a man walked in and shot him.
ETA was trying to force the now conservative government to negotiate. In response to Valiente’s assassination, university students united saying ‘Basta ya!’ — enough!
In 1997, ETA kidnapped then killed young town councillor Miguel Ángel Blanco. ETA insisted the government move convicted members to prisons in the Basque region within 48 hours.
Demanding an end to terror methods, millions of ordinary people held mass demonstrations in large cities, including the Basque city of Bilbao, shouting ‘nunca mas!’ This means ‘no more, ever’.