Democratic authorities prepare for a future without ETA violence

Divisions begin to appear on how to go about forging peace in the Basque Country

Antonio Camacho and anti-terrorist officials.
Antonio Camacho and anti-terrorist officials.

Growing disharmony over how to forge a new political future for the Basque Country without ETA began surfacing on Friday one day after the Basque terrorist group announced its "definite ceasefire."

The leader of Basque Country government announced that he will convene all the regional parties, including the radical pro-independence Bildu coalition, to an urgent meeting to evaluate ETA's ceasefire announcement and discuss the region's political future.

Paxti López, the Socialist regional premier, said he will try to seek "maximum unity" from all the political forces so that steps can be taken "to consolidate the final cycle" of the Basque terrorist group's existence.

"Reason has replaced non-reason, democracy has won over totalitarianism, and the state of the law has defeated terrorism," López said, in his first news conference following ETA's announcement ceasefire declaration on Thursday.

More information
ETA announces end to violence
Encouraging voices from abroad on ETA move
No brokered agreements and no concessions, say victims' groups
The final truce: why and how we at last got to this point
ETA took peace decision after Bildu's electoral success in May

But in San Sebastián, members of the Basque radical abertzale left said the terrorist group's announcement doesn't mean "the end to a conflict."

Past members of the outlawed Batasuna party - ETA's political wing - read from a statement reiterating the terrorist group's call for the governments of Spain and France to adopt measures to resolve the existing "political conflict."

"With leaps and bounds a new stage has been opened" which the abertzale left welcomes "with a big smile," according to the statement. Among those who were present were historic radical left leaders Rufi Etxeberria and Maribi Ugarteburu.

From Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised to continue to lend support to the Spanish government to guarantee peace in the Basque Country.

In Washington, a US official said the ETA ceasefire raised hopes for a peaceful solution to decades of violence.

"Yesterday's announcement by ETA in Spain that it has renounced violence holds out the prospect of a historic step toward peace, although there is a long road ahead to realize this promise," US National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

ETA called for a ceasefire but hasn't said how and when it will turn over it arms and disband. The Socialist government of Prime Minister José Rodríguez Zapatero was optimistic that this was the final end to the terrorist group which has killed 829 people and injured more than 1,000 over the past 43 years.

Interior Minister Antonio Camacho said that next step will be the most complicated. "We have finished our task and now we are face with a more difficult one: to ensure that are laws are strictly followed to guarantee that no future generation of Spaniards has to suffer any barbaric act that jeopardizes our progress and compromises our future," Camacho said.

Some terrorist victims, such as Mari Mar Blanco, whose brother Miguel Ángel Blanco, a popular councilman from Ermua, who was kidnapped and killed by ETA in July 1997, are against any type of negotiations with ETA. Blanco said she was opposed to one of the abertzale left's demands to move ETA prisoners closer to their families in the Basque Country.

But others, such as the family members of former Socialist Health Minister Ernest Lluch, who was shot in the head at his home by an ETA assassin in 2000, asked ETA victims associations not to get involved in the upcoming peace process because it should be left "to people who are professional in resolving such issues."

"As victims, we are not objective. Our time will come when it comes time to recognize the victims but we cannot get involved in the peace process," said Enric Lluch, the late minister's nephew who serves as vice president for the Ernest Lluch Foundation in Barcelona.

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