ETA Declares a Ceasefire

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Sporting white hoods and black berets, ETA militants called for a cease-fire on Monday. Though the Basque separatist group is notorious for its violent attacks in the name of Basque independence and is considered a terrorist organization by the EU, the US and Spain, the cease-fire announcement was received with relative ambivalence combined with much speculation. In 2006 ETA had made a similar promise to the Spanish government which was followed by a car bombing at Madrid's Barajas airport only months later.

According to The New York Times, the Spanish interior minister declared ETA's announcement "not sufficient to guarantee an end to Spain's four-decade fight against the nationalist group." ETA issued a similar statement in September which was also rejected by the government because of the group's refusal to hand over weapons. No mention of surrendering weapons was heard in today's announcement either, inciting criticism and suspicion from bloggers and government officials alike.

  • The Key Words in ETA's Plan  ETA has proved in the past that its ceasefire declarations cannot be trusted. So what does the latest announcement mean? The Economist breaks down the recent statement by its key words in an effort to understand the group's intentions. Permanent: "In this case, 'permament' appears to mean something more like 'indefinite.' 'ETA is the one that interprets the meaning of its own words,' warns Kepa Aulestia, a Basque expert at the Vocento media group. 'There is no time limit or ultimatum [to the ceasefire].'" General: "The hope is that ETA's use of this term will mean that in addition to giving up the 'offensive armed actions' that it stopped four months ago, the group will stop some, if not all, the other criminal activities it uses to support itself. Car hijackings and robberies in France may now be put on hold, but ETA will find it extremely difficult to operate without the extortion money it exacts from businesses and wealthy individuals in the Basque country." Verifiable: This is a new one for ETA. "Do not expect ETA to start showing its arms caches to international observers. The word is more likely to have been used as a signal that the group expects international recognition, and an invitation to participation by various international mediators who have encouraged the group to down arms in recent months."
  • Not Enough  Upon hearing the news, Ernie Smith at Short Form Blog retorts: "If your idea of a permanent cease-fire involves a bunch of guys wearing berets and potato sacks over their heads, this may be the cease-fire for you. For Spain, it's not enough."
  • Good News, But Not Great  As a guest blogger at The Moderate Voice, Jose M. Guardia first wants to clear up any confusion surrounding ETA's motives. "ETA can be described just as a separatist group only if you call al-Qaeda a religious, Boeing-flying group," he clarifies. "They have killed, maimed and injured hundreds of people. What defines ETA, or al-Qaeda, is not their goals, but the means they use to pursue them: terrorism, instead of civilized political debate." Guardia acknowledges that the ceasefire announcement is better than no announcement at all, "but I wouldn't bet too much on this declaration, as I haven't in the past," he writes. "If they call for a 'permanent and internationally verifiable cease-fire' without surrendering their weapons, the only verification would be counting the days until they change their minds and strike again."
  • Could The Truce Really Last?  Alex Rossi at Sky News' Eurovision blog wonders if the language used in Monday's announcement, which he says is "stronger than anything we've heard before," may mean that ETA's intentions are sincere. He points out:
In the past the ceasefires have been used as a chance for the group to reform. But things may be different now. ETA has been seriously weakened in the last few years with many of its members arrested and jailed. Popular support in the Baque country is also on the wane. Is it a sign, perhaps, that this time the truce may just last?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.