Basque Popular Party chief resigns over post-ETA peace proposal

Arantza Quiroga infuriated her own party and victims’ groups with her parliamentary motion

Mikel Ormazabal
Arantza Quiroga has resigned as head of the Basque Popular Party.
Arantza Quiroga has resigned as head of the Basque Popular Party.l. rico

The leader of the Basque branch of Spain’s nationally ruling Popular Party (PP), Arantza Quiroga, has announced that she is stepping down after attracting widespread criticism from her own party and from terrorism victims’ associations.

The decision comes shortly after Quiroga tabled a motion in the regional parliament that aimed to unblock talks between all political parties on the subject of the post-ETA scenario now unfolding in the Basque Country.

The goal of the stalled talks is to create a new framework for peaceful coexistence following the end of armed activities announced by ETA in October 2011.

Quiroga, 42, who is a lawyer and a mother of five, apologized “to anyone who may have felt offended”

But PP leaders and victims’ associations responded negatively to Quiroga’s suggestion that separatist forces – including EH Bildu, a far-left political group with historical ties to the terrorist organization – should no longer be forced to voice a clear condemnation of ETA before moving forward with the talks.

This condemnation of ETA’s past – which includes over 800 murders and dozens of kidnappings – has been a long-held demand by the PP, the Basque Socialists and other political parties in the region. But radical Basque separatists, known collectively as the abertzale left, have balked at this condition, and tried instead to equate ETA’s activities to the government’s dirty war against the terrorist organization in the 1980s, when the GAL paramilitary group assassinated around 30 people.

Last Thursday, Quiroga suddenly pulled her motion, which had suggested that all parties should “assume the principle of respect for the individual and for human rights, and an express rejection of violence.”

More information
ETA announces end to violence
16 held in raid against ETA network
Basque radicals try new tack as election ban looms (2011)
ETA reorganizes to focus on politics
Behind bars and in the street

This “express rejection of violence” was seen as a watered-down version of “condemnation of ETA terrorism.” The Association of Victims of Terrorism called it “an affront and a snub for victims,” and said Spaniards should take note of the PP’s new position with a view to the general elections coming up on December 20.

After the retraction, Quiroga remained absent from politics until this Wednesday, when she confirmed that she was resigning after nearly two and a half years in the post.

Quiroga, 42, who is a lawyer and a mother of five, apologized “to anyone who may have felt offended,” particularly “the victims who did not understand what I have done. I never meant to hurt their feelings; all these years I have worked to be their voice.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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