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What is behind ETA's ceasefire announcement?

09-06-2010 08:12 BJT

Would the ETA's ceasefire announcement bring long-expected peace for Spain?

MADRID, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- The ETA announcement of a ceasefire on Sunday didn't come as a big surprise as the radical Basque separatist group has been weakened by consistent government crackdown in recent years and is facing calls for ceasefire within the group.

The announcement arrives just two days after the ETA political wing Batasuna and its ally Eusko Alkartasuna (EA) proposed a ceasefire from the radical organization, which pursues independence for the Basque region in the north of Spain.

The past 10 years have seen changes in the Basque community. Parties with links to militants have consistently been prohibited from having candidates in local, regional and national elections.

Between 10-15 percent of the Basque population habitually voted for parties such as Batasuna and although some have switched their votes to the conservative Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), the Basque Autonomous Community (Euskadi) is now governed by a non-nationalist coalition of the Socialist Party (PSOE ) and the Popular Party (PP).

The PSOE and the right wing PP may seem strange bedfellows, but the two Madrid based parties have been able to find enough common ground in Euskadi to keep the nationalists out of power.

ETA has also suffered a series of military setbacks in recent years with its ability to organize armed attacks damaged by the effective action of French and Spanish police.

Leaders such as Ibon Gogeaskotxea have been arrested among a total of 58 ETA members detained during the current year.

Relations between the political and military wings of the "Izquierda Aberzale" are also thought to have broken down in recent months with the political wing increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress in any peace process while they suffer the effects of an increasingly ineffective and unpopular military campaign.

With local, regional and general elections on the horizon, a political solution seems the only option.

Reactions from Madrid, especially the PP, are likely to be lukewarm, due to memories of how ETA used its last ceasefire to build up strength and to rearm before launching another armed campaign.

The PP is certain to resist any direct talks between the Spanish government and ETA in order to earn political capital of any perceived weakness shown by the government ahead of the next general elections, which will probably be held in 2012.

Meanwhile, EA and Batasuna hope that the ceasefire will allow them to step back into the political arena, while the PNV hope that in the future a nationalist coalition can return to power in Euskadi.

Any peace process will not be easy due to the mutual distrust between ETA and Madrid.

Though there are still no details on whether or not the ceasefire is temporary or permanent, but it should be remembered that this is not the first time ETA has called a ceasefire.

The last ETA ceasefire was called in September 1998, which lasted for 14 months. But talks with the then Spanish government of Jose Maria Aznar broke down after just one meeting in Switzerland with both parties accusing the other of lacking any true interest in a lasting peace.

ETA announced an end to that ceasefire in November 1999 and the explosions of car bombs in Vitoria and Madrid at the start of 2000 saw a return to violence.

Editor:Zhang Pengfei |Source: Xinhua

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