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ETA: The forgotten ones

EL PAÍS journalist Aurora Intxausti recalls how she and her family narrowly survived a terrorist attack

A municipal worker cleaning up graffiti in Guernica.
A municipal worker cleaning up graffiti in Guernica.Vincent West (Reuters)

It’s been six years since Iñigo, my son, learned that ETA had tried to kill him. His father and I told him about it over dinner. That night, we talked about freedom, democracy and terrorism. We spoke calmly: enough time had passed since a terrorist cell left a bomb on our doorstep. At that point, ETA had decided to “socialize the suffering” – so it said in one of its releases – and journalists had become targets. They could have targeted just Juan and myself, but they opted to go for the entire family (our child was 18 months old at the time) because of the international repercussion it would have.

Journalists as targets

On November 10, 2000, ETA tried to assassinate EL PAÍS journalist Aurora Intxausti, her husband Juan Palomo, who was a reporter with Antena 3, and their toddler Íñigo. The terrorist group placed a bomb outside the front door of their home. The explosive device, which contained two kilograms of ammonal and three kilos of shrapnel, was concealed inside a planter, and a cable had been attached to the door handle. But the detonating system failed and the family was spared. Intxausti had just been targeted in a video made by a magazine called Ardi Beltza, whose editor Pepe Rei had once been the managing editor of Egin, a left-wing newspaper used by ETA to make its public statements.

Along the way, I have shed all the psychological effects that many victims suffer, and I have dealt with difficult situations. Sometimes you would find yourself at the psychiatrist’s office, where you’d meet people wondering why they survived while their colleagues perished in a bomb attack meant for everyone. Or you would meet widows who, 20 years after their husbands were murdered, still felt responsible for the death because they themselves had once revealed to the local butcher that their husbands were in the armed forces.

I had dreamed about this day, I had imagined it and turned it over in my head many times over the years. It is a bittersweet moment because, almost without realizing it, my memory is bringing up the hundreds of attacks that I had to report on as a journalist. The old man who was left lying on the pedestrian crosswalk, shot in the head as he was headed to play his daily game of cards with friends. The military governor and his family, ripped to shreds after a terrorist cell placed a car bomb under their vehicle. The graphic designer who lost both arms after opening a parcel bomb. The bicycle seller assassinated simply because he got in the way. The young small-time drug dealer; a businessman’s chauffeur; the hundreds of young Civil Guard officers stationed in the Basque Country, whose mothers would show up from their villages dressed in black to collect the bodies of their beloved children...

The terrorists have achieved none of the things they wanted when they decided to wage a battle against anyone who did not share their theories

Those were times of great sadness, because Basque society was determined not to know what was happening to their next-door neighbors, and always sought explanations to justify any attack. Meanwhile, the nationalist parties remained willfully blind to reality until ETA decided to include them on their hit list as well.

I had dreamed about this day, I had imagined it and turned it over in my head many times over the years

If there is something that is clear to me, it is that after so many years of terrorism, our democracy has emerged the stronger. The terrorists have achieved none of the things they wanted when, nearly 60 years ago today, they decided to wage a battle against anyone who did not share their theories. Despite all the pain they caused, they failed to break us. Their demise has been drawn-out, but at last the end has come. Iñigo’s generation – he is 18 today – will be the first to vote in democratic elections without the shadow of ETA looming over them. What’s left to do now is to craft the story of what happened during those long years of terrorist atrocities, and that is a task that befalls everyone.

English version by Susana Urra.


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