The armed group Basque Country And Freedom (ETA has made a significant step towards decommissioning the weapons used in its campaign for independence and freedom, Irish Republican News said on February 21. But the Spanish government immediately rejected the move.
The decommissioning by ETA of some its cache of weapons and explosives, drawing a definitive line under decades of bloody conflict, was confirmed by an International Verification Commission.
“We have verified that ETA has put out of operative use a certain amount of arms and explosives,” Ram Manikkalingam, the commission chairperson told a press conference in the Basque city of Bilbao. “We believe this is a credible and significant step.”
But the development was dismissed as “more of the same” and “theatrics” by the Spanish government.
Jorge Fernandez Diaz, Spain’s interior minister, told a press conference in Madrid: “The only thing that Spanish society, the Spanish government and the Spanish state are working towards is the complete dissolution of ETA, without concessions and without conditions.”
The Basque people have used armed struggle to win independence ever since the fascist Franco dictatorship violently imposed Spanish control over most of the Basque Countries, which straddle both France and Spain.
Since 1959, ETA evolved from a group promoting traditional Basque culture to a military group with the goal of regaining independence. However, ETA declared an indefinite ceasefire in 2011.
Madrid has said repeatedly that until the group surrenders all its weapon and disbands, it will not consider any move to improve the prison conditions for the hundreds of ETA detainees held in Spanish government jails. Most of the 600 prisoners are held in criminal facilities located far from the Basque country.
Tens of thousands of protesters have marched through the streets of the Basque Country on behalf of the prisoners, defying Madrid’s court bans. Recent protests have also been endorsed by two of the region’s main political parties as being for “human rights, understanding and peace”.
[Abridged from Irish Republican News.]