The announcement of the final abandonment of armed struggle by ETA, was received with a mixture of scepticism and hope in the Basque region.
For decades, the area has been ruled by fear and mistrust, and after half a century in existence, ETA leaves behind a divided society, condemned to living together in the same towns and villages.
Attention is now focused on the future of ETA prisoners. Their families hope for an end to the dispersion law that spreads them in prisons across the country.
While the victims of ETA ask to be remembered, with dignity and respect, and want prisoners to serve the full duration of their sentences.
Euronews spoke to three Basque women whose lives have been affected by ETA.
The first is Christina Sagarzazu, her husband was killed by an ETA car bomb in 1996. Montxo Dural was an officer in the Basque police, he was accused of treason by the seperatists.
Cristina was left alone, a widow with three children. One night she heard how left wing nationalist protesters were shouting even louder when they passed her house. That night, she decided to move.
She remains a nationalist, and despite losing her husband, she decided not to join a society of victims because she believes that all are politicised. This is her testimony:
“What was he like? I do not know, after 15 years of marriage with him, I can say that he was intelligent. He was four years younger than me. I think what I felt about him is that he was a smart guy, he was a good person
“I heard an explosion, I saw a car pass and I thought, ‘that’s just like Monxo’s car.’ Deep down, I knew it was him. Then I went with my son in my arms to see. I went down the hill, and got close to the car, and there he was, eyes closed. I think there was a small drop of blood on his face, but I couldn’t look.
“The other day, just to know, I asked my younger son, who is 17-years-old for his opinion. I asked him ‘should they let all of the prisoners out?’”
“And he said: ‘Even those who killed?’”
“‘Yes’, I said.”
“He replied, ‘No way! It’s clear that if we say sure they’ve killed people in the past, but now that doesn’t matter, they can walk free. That is not how we heal our wounds.’
“I rely on my ignorance to not see them in the street because, honestly, I don’t know what I would do. I think I would do nothing, I’ve never been particularly brave, but they will eventually come out. The question is how? And under what conditions they will be released?
“Reconciliation? What is that? What does it really mean? For me the meaning of the word
is unclear. If we are able to live together that is already enormous. I think it would be sufficient if we can just live together.”
Arantxa Otaegi lives in Renteria, a stronghold of the independentist Basque, where she has always felt supported by their neighbours.
Her son was arrested in France in 1999 for being a member of ETA. Convicted of the attempted murder of a prison officer, he was transferred to a prison in Seville, 900 kilometres from the Basque region, where he is serving a 20-year sentence. She spoke to us of her son:
“He was not of those who did graffiti and things like that, but I knew he favoured ETA, and saw that he was more on that side
“The day he left, he told us there would not be just a small group who do everything, and others who don’t. He said it wouldn’t be for a hundred years, but that he had to go, and he left.
“I heard on the radio that they had arrested a young couple.
“Paradoxically, you feel relief. You don’t want him to be arrested nor do you want him to be in danger, especially because we know they are not doing well, and have no place to go for shelter or to sleep. “
Arantxa now has to travel very long distances by bus to see her son in prison:
“How do I prepare for the next visit? I get very nervous the night before while I arrange everything; the sandwiches for the trip. First, we go to Donosti, we go out on Friday at 4.45 in the afternoon, via Donosti and if necessary we go through Iziar, Zumaia, Durango. They set up bunks so we can sleep. We arrive at about six o’clock the next morning in Seville. After all that I can only see my son for 40 minutes.
“I’m really sorry for all the victims and their families, but we too have casualties on our side and no-one remembers our victims. Must we ask for forgiveness? Well, if we’ve got to apologise, they have to beg forgiveness first for everything they did to us.
“We’ll have to live together. Things have happened but I have nothing against anyone. We’ll have to make sure that things are done properly because after years of conflict, we have to make sure that things are done the right way.”
Thirdly is Pilar Elias whose husband was killed by ETA in 1980. All the separatists involved in the attack were her neighbours.
After the assassination of her husband, who was a local councillor, Pilar joined the People’s Party and was for years a city councillor herself.
We spoke with her at her son’s house in Zarauz. She did not want to be recorded in the street because she feels she could not speak freely there.
She has lived under guard for the last 14 years. She survived a bomb attack and saw how one of her husband’s assassins was honoured by her town after his release from prison. Later he opened a glassware shop just below her house. She finds the situation almost unbearable:
“Indeed, the murderer of my husband bought the shop, and I still wonder for what purpose? Because this man was a kitchen fitter, and suddenly he became a glazier.
“After that, I was rather cautious and when there are meetings of the trustees, to deal with things like the roof and things like that, I never go. I’ve always said: ‘I will never attend the meetings’.
“They’re not going to kill us, but in the media they will do us much harm. If you see the way they look at me. Before they were holding back, but now they do it shamelessly. In fact, now they are pulling the strings, they are the leaders of the village, they run the town hall “
“Every year they take the money from the town budget, and give it to families who want to visit these two villains who killed my husband? They will see their children with our money!? And what about us? We are here, my children are orphans, my grandchildren will never know their grandfather!
“We’ll see if one day, we can live together in peace. Maybe in a few years we will see, that’s what we all want. We all want to live in peace”
After the elections on 20 November, the future Spanish government will move forward on issues such as the disarmament of ETA and the future of their prisoners.
The reconciliation, on the other hand, could take generations.