ETA: Basque separatist group disbands after decades of conflict

ETA: Basque separatist group disbands after decades of conflict

Basque separatist group says it has ‘dissolved all its structures’ following decision to disarm in April 2017.

ETA, which in Basque language stands for Basque Homeland and Liberty, was founded in 1959 [Vincent West/Reuters]
ETA, which in Basque language stands for Basque Homeland and Liberty, was founded in 1959 [Vincent West/Reuters]

Basque separatist group ETA has “completely dissolved all its structures and ended its political initiative”, according to a letter published online by Spain’s El Diario newspaper.

The group’s letter, dated April 16 but published on Wednesday, ends its nearly six-decade-long campaign to create a Basque homeland in a region straddling northern Spain and southwestern France.

The campaign – during which ETA carried out bombings and armed attacks against the Spanish state – killed at least 840 people, including some 340 civilians.

“Euskal Herria [the Basque Country] is now facing a new opportunity to definitively close the cycle of conflict and build its future between everyone. We must not repeat mistakes; we must not let problems fester. That would only be a source of new problems,” said the letter, which was sent to a number of Basque organisations.

“Years of confrontation have left deep wounds, and we must give them adequate time to heal. Some are still bleeding because suffering is not a thing of the past,” the group said.

“Through this letter, and with all humility, ETA wants to provide you all with one last opinion. In its opinion, the solution to the conflict and the construction of Euskal Herria [the Basque Country] needs all of you, because the future is the responsibility of everyone.”

The Basque Country

The announcement, however, does not end the Basque Country’s conflict with Spain and France, the letter added.

“The conflict did not start with ETA and does not end with the final journey of ETA,” it said.

The Basque Country, home to more than two million people, has its own culture, history and language.

ETA – which in the Basque language stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or Basque Homeland and Liberty – had been expected to announce its final dissolution this week following an earlier decision to disarm in April 2017, six years after declaring a permanent ceasefire.

The group – deemed a “terrorist organisation” by several countries including Spain, France, and the United States – was founded in 1959 during General Francisco Franco’s rule in Spain.

ETA prisoners

Most violent during the 1980s and 1990s, ETA has been weakened in recent years by multiple arrests targeting senior leaders.

On Wednesday, Spain’s Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said officials would continue to investigate unresolved crimes believed to have been carried out by ETA members.

“ETA obtained nothing through its promise to stop killing, and it will obtain nothing by announcing what they call dissolution,” Zoido said, adding police will “continue to pursue the terrorists, wherever they may be”.

Some 300 ETA members are imprisoned in Spain, France, and Portugal and as many as 100 are still on the run, according to prisoners’ families group Forum Social.

The group has demanded that prisoners be moved to prisons closer to their families after the end of ETA, AFP news agency reported on Wednesday.


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