ETA Announces a Cease-fire

ETA, the decades-old violent separatist movement in the Basque Country, declared a cease-fire last week – an announcement that was reported in media around the world. But the group’s statement was met with skepticism from political officials, which was not surprising considering that ETA has made such promises before, only to break them later.

The offer on Sept. 5 reflects no time-frame for the cease-fire. The group said it had made the decision to halt violent attacks months earlier. ETA made the declaration via a video to the British BBC and the Basque publication Gara, considered a mouthpiece of ETA.

Zapatero’s Spanish government and the regional Basque government have rejected the offer, claiming that only a permanent disarmament by the guerrilla group is acceptable.

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ETA, which stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Basque Country and Liberty), declared its previous cease-fire in March 2006, but that ended nine months later when ETA killed two people in a car bombing at a Madrid airport.

In 2003, the Spanish government outlawed Batasuna, the political arm of ETA, which eliminated the group’s influence in the political sphere. Numerous arrests of suspected ETA operatives have continued.

ETA was born in 1958 during the Francisco Franco dictatorship as a reaction to the repressive actions by Spain’s government against the Basque people. Among other harsh measures, Franco made it illegal for Basques to speak their ancient language, Euskera. Many Basques were imprisoned for political reasons.

More than 800 deaths are attributed to ETA’s fight for independence for the Basque region. The group lost much of its popular support in the Basque Country after the Spanish government gave regional independence to a large sector of the Basque region, referred to as Euskadi, in 1979. Euskadi has its own regional government and controls its own purse strings.

Some in-depth reports on the declaration:

ETA Announces Cease-fire – By Associated Press via the New York Times

Spanish Prime Minister’s Response to ETA – Reuters

ETA Loses Ability to Command Fear – Financial Times

Why Declare a Cease-fire now? – The Economist

Analysis of the Cease-fire – Time Magazine

Spain Skeptical over Cease-fire – Euro Weekly News

Irish Rebels Influenced ETA Decision – RTT News

Wall Street Journal’s Analysis of Cease-fire