Basque separatist group Eta to vote on disbanding

Newspaper gains access to internal communique sent to militants

ETA has not killed anyone since 2010 and staged a decommissioning ceremony in southern France last year, prompting speculation that its demobilisation was imminent. Photograph: AP

ETA has not killed anyone since 2010 and staged a decommissioning ceremony in southern France last year, prompting speculation that its demobilisation was imminent. Photograph: AP

 

Basque terrorist group Eta is consulting members on whether to disband in the coming months.

In an internal communique sent to militants, Eta’s leadership has proposed debating and voting on ending the group’s existence, according to Gara newspaper, which gained access to the document.

“We must close the period of armed conflict and its related situations to offer all our efforts to strengthen the political process,” Gara reported the missive as saying. The document was drawn up last April.

“And the only way of doing that is for us to directly take the initiative, without waiting for anything or anyone.”

The organisation has not killed anyone since 2010 and staged a decommissioning ceremony in southern France last year, prompting speculation that its demobilisation was imminent.

The Izquierda Abertzale, the Basque separatist left, which is represented by several political parties, is widely seen as having helped persuade Eta to move away from violence and is cited in the document.

“This is a proposal to move forward and so it is very important that all the militant strength created under and around Eta’s influence should contribute – and continue doing so – to the Izquierda Abertzale, the independence process, the popular movement,” it reads.

Consultative process

According to Gara, the consultative process is currently under way and the result of a final vote could be announced before the summer.

Eta was founded in the late 1950s with the aim of creating an independent Basque state and began its campaign of violence in 1968, killing more than 800 people over the next four decades. But police pressure, particularly co-operation with the security forces in France where many Eta members took refuge, severely weakened the group, which announced a “definitive ceasefire” in 2011.

So far, the Spanish authorities have played down Eta’s moves away from violence, always insisting it must disband and express remorse for its past actions. Madrid has also consistently rejected holding talks on issues such as the transfer of Eta prisoners to jails closer to their homes.

However, the latest Eta proposal does not appear to raise overtly the prisoner issue, nor does it suggest issuing any kind of apology. Instead, it offers an upbeat reading of the current political situation.

“[T]he pro-independence left has laid down enough foundations to advance along the road to freedom,” it reads, adding that although “the aims which have guided Eta have not been achieved yet, during recent decades strength and willpower have been built up around them.”

A poll by the University of Deusto in the Basque Country in December showed that 14 per cent of people in the region wanted independence.