ETA seeks opinions from former members on permanent ceasefire

Terrorist group consulting with former and retired ETA members

ETA is holding a series of consultations with its members and other organizations before deciding if, and when, to call a permanent and verifiable ceasefire, something that many in the Basque abertzale left voiced support for in September.

According to sources, the Basque terrorist group is not only seeking opinions in Spain, but is also consulting with former and retired ETA members who have spent years living in other countries, such as Venezuela, Cuba and Mexico. The organization is also polling jailed members.

The move is seen as significant, given that during past ceasefires, ETA has never before conducted a broad survey among current and former members with regard to its future.

It is also unique in that ETA is asking its jailed members for their advice. A large majority of them back the abertzale call. But they face opposition from two other groups of imprisoned militants who have either completely broken off with ETA or are against giving up the violent, armed struggle.

This same split is mirrored among those who live abroad.

According to abertzale sources, the ongoing consultations have kept ETA from announcing a decision on whether it will agree to a permanent and verifiable ceasefire. The proposal was first put forward in March by a group of influential international statesmen, including two Nobel Prize winners, led by Brian Currin. The South African lawyer gave the group a year-end deadline to state its position.

The Basque left has declined to say when ETA will announce its decision. Heated discussions among terrorist group members could also be a reason why ETA hasn't made any statements, the abertzale says.

Splinter-group attack

The government has no precise information since ETA reduced activity in September. However, officials believe that the group won't declare a ceasefire in the short-term because they are convinced that not all members will abide by one. Sources say that it will take time and officials haven't ruled out violent attacks by a splinter group.

Once the abertzale left publicly renounces violence and abides by the terms of the Law of Political Parties, it intends to fight for its legalization in the courts. Sources close to the Basque left say that they want to draft their party statutes similar to those of the governing Socialist Party. This is something Socialist Basque regional premier Paxti López probably knows. During a recent regional parliament session, López stated: "Integrating into democracy doesn't just mean registering a group of statutes. Anyone can copy those of any legal organization."

The abertzale left doesn't want to jump the gun and would prefer ETA to make a ceasefire announcement before registering a new party at the Interior Ministry. But there is a Plan B. If ETA doesn't issue a statement by the January deadline, the abertzale may take steps to begin publicly disassociating itself from ETA.

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