These are the responsibility of the editor and convey the newspaper's view on current affairs-both domestic and international

ETA: the nightmare ends

Democracy has triumphed over a gang of fanatics who killed 800 people and injured thousands more

The murders committed by ETA brought misery to thousands of children, condemned to a life without the love and protection of their parents, whom they would never see again alive after the fateful day they left their homes. ETA violated the most fundamental right of any person: the right to live without fear. That, and nothing else is the legacy of the 43 years of ETA's criminal activity; that and nothing else is what the terrorists have achieved. They know better than anybody that their revolutionary sloganeering and bogus patriotism is simply a way to hide the awful truth, and that when they look in the mirror each morning they see men and women whose hands are stained with blood.

The statement issued by ETA announcing its definitive ceasefire and disbandment talks of a new age dawning for the Basque Country, and they are right. But at the same time, the organization insists that this new age has dawned because it has decided, and it alone, to allow this to happen by no longer resorting to violence and the celebration of violence. Spanish democracy has triumphed, refusing to bend to the will of the terrorists, forcing them to this point: they no longer dare celebrate evil, and they no longer dare perpetrate it. They say that over the course of the last four decades that democracy has also perpetrated crimes. And it is true that crimes were perpetrated, to the shame of all true democrats. But our democracy never sank to the point of celebrating violence, and it did not allow those who broke the rules to go unpunished, applying the same laws to them as it did to the terrorists.

The new age that has dawned in the Basque Country is not the result of democracy reaching out to the terrorists, but the result of the terrorists, faced with the realization that there is no point in continuing to perpetrate crimes, having decided to reach out to democracy. They could have decided to do this a year ago, a decade ago, two decades ago, or even longer. They could have done so when the fragile democracy that they sought to overthrow, trying to provoke a reaction from the still-active supporters of Franco in the military in the process, had the immense courage to offer them a pardon along with the opportunity to publish a statement in exactly the same terms as that announced on Thursday. Those really were new times, not like today, which is only a new day for those who, having carried out crime after crime over 30 years, have finally come to understand that never, ever, will they achieve their goals through violence, and who are now simply trying to salve their consciences by saying that they are abandoning terror because the world around them has changed, rather than because they have finally accepted their defeat in the face of a democracy that has had to carry the burden of the pain and suffering for so many years.

There is little point in passing judgment on the international conference that has led to this announcement, except to say that it has served as a means to bring about the end of terrorism. The presence of several important international figures failed to hide the fact that this was not about two sides signing a peace deal. The supposed war, the supposed conflict here, was carried out by a fanatical sect that saw itself as some kind of army, inventing its enemy, an enemy that in reality was simply the rest of society. If any kind of peace has been reached as a result of Thursday's announcement, it is that of the terrorists with themselves. And that peace, as unilateral as the supposed war and the supposed conflict it brought to an end, cannot be twisted to justify the terrorists' crimes, or to convince themselves and others that until Thursday so much death and destruction had been of any use.

The election campaign for the November 20 polls is around the corner, and it will be the first in the history of modern Spain without the threat of terrorism hanging over it. That said, there will be men and women taking part in the elections who for many years have defended the very same ideas as the terrorists, and what's more, who failed to condemn their execrable methods. But if democracy has triumphed against the murderers and extortionists, then there is no reason to fear that it will succumb to those who have finally decided to accept its rules.

The triumph of Spanish democracy over terrorism is a triumph that all those who believe in democracy can share. But few Spanish politicians have worked harder to corner ETA than Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. In his five years as interior minister he has been the man who led the fight against ETA. But from now on it is the responsibility of all of us to make sure that terrorism does not return; that our democratic institutions remain strong; and that the victims of terrorism can finally enjoy the fruits of democracy.

The tragedy that our democracy has endured for so many years has gone, not because there is now peace, but because a fanatical sect that believed it could defeat democracy has finally accepted that it cannot, leaving it no choice but to lay down its arms. We should be proud of that; but we should also remember the suffering and loss of so many men and women who will not be with us to face the challenges of a present and a future where disagreement will never again be paid for in blood.

Tu suscripción se está usando en otro dispositivo

¿Quieres añadir otro usuario a tu suscripción?

Si continúas leyendo en este dispositivo, no se podrá leer en el otro.

¿Por qué estás viendo esto?


Tu suscripción se está usando en otro dispositivo y solo puedes acceder a EL PAÍS desde un dispositivo a la vez.

Si quieres compartir tu cuenta, cambia tu suscripción a la modalidad Premium, así podrás añadir otro usuario. Cada uno accederá con su propia cuenta de email, lo que os permitirá personalizar vuestra experiencia en EL PAÍS.

En el caso de no saber quién está usando tu cuenta, te recomendamos cambiar tu contraseña aquí.

Si decides continuar compartiendo tu cuenta, este mensaje se mostrará en tu dispositivo y en el de la otra persona que está usando tu cuenta de forma indefinida, afectando a tu experiencia de lectura. Puedes consultar aquí los términos y condiciones de la suscripción digital.

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS