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ETA is not fooling anyone

Democratic Spain must not allow the terrorist group to whitewash its criminal history

The aftermath of an ETA attack on the Civil Guard in Vic.
The aftermath of an ETA attack on the Civil Guard in Vic.Pere Tordera

As was to be expected, the Basque terrorist organization ETA is turning its unquestionable defeat into a carefully crafted campaign to clean up its image. Together with the announcement of the long-awaited news of its final disbandment, it is trying to convert its crimes into heroic gestures, ones that its militants had no other choice but to assume. And it is now saying that its number will continue to fight for the plan that first saw them take up arms more than 50 years ago.

ETA is using unacceptable lyricism to camouflage a history that is defined by terror and death

The statement released on Thursday announced their definitive dissolution, and the fact that they were to release this communique was flagged up by ETA themselves several weeks ago. These steps have been carefully studied in advance, and are painstakingly choreographed. In the text, ETA pointed to the bombing of Gernika in a bid to enhance their history. “We inherited that violence and that lament, and it falls to us that the generations to come reap another future.” The text that was sent as an audio message on Thursday –read by historic ETA members Josu Urrutikoetxea, known by his alias of Josu Ternera, and Soledad Iparraguirre, known as Amboto stated that the fight would continue “for a reunited, independent, socialist, Basque-speaking and non patriarchal Basque Country, wherever they see fit, with the sense of responsibility and honesty they have always demonstrated.” It’s an unacceptable lyricism, used to camouflage a history that is defined by terror and death.

ETA, with the complicity of those who refuse to condemn its crimes, is bent on creating a narrative in which its history of gratuitous violence takes secondary importance, albeit still painful in its long fight for the constitution of a Basque state (“We are truly sorry,” ETA said in its previous statement).

The representation of this death of the terrorist organization that is being so insistently publicized ended today in Cambo-les-Bains, in France. The event has been organized by a number of organizations that have been overseeing the end of the terrorist group, and the whole point of the final phase of this process is to convey the fact that there were people from outside Spain who had to mediate in order to facilitate the end of the conflict.

But that’s not how this happened. ETA was defeated by the state’s security forces, and there was no international mediation of any kind that brought about its demise. The more than 850 dead that it left in its wake, the kidnappings, the extortion, the atmosphere of violence that it imposed on Basque society with its totalitarian message didn’t serve for anything. ETA is disappearing, the future starts now.

The task ahead of us is to combat the false narrative that is claiming that it was all a heroic mission

The task ahead of us, and it will be no mean feat, is to combat the false narrative that is claiming that it was all a heroic mission, and to achieve this task we need all of the forces from the democracy that ETA tried to destroy to work together. There will be time to deal with everything else – the situation of ETA prisoners for example, many of whom are being held in jails far from their families in the Basque Country. This issue will be resolved following the channels that have already been established, without any changes being interpreted as a political concession as the organization disbands. We should never forget that the justice system still has unresolved crimes committed by ETA to deal with. Working toward the resolution of these cases would be the best formula to leave the past definitively behind.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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