Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Peace Is Not Breaking Out

As predicted, not exclusively, on this blog, the Partido Popular (PP) has now broken any possible consensus with the government over the next steps following the ceasefire by ETA. The reason given for the break was the announcement that the Basque section of the Spanish Socialist Party was going to begin contacts with the political wing of ETA, Batasuna. In reality it was always going to be a question of when, rather than if, the break would come. Ever since the ceasefire was announced the PP has been steadily chipping away at public confidence in the validity of the process, the difference is that now they have opted for frontal confrontation on the issue.

The break with the government also follows a disappointing performance by PP leader Mariano Rajoy in the “State of the Nation” debate last week, in the latest opinion poll only 14% of those interviewed think he won the debate. The peace process was not debated, more or less by agreement between both major parties, but then at the very last minute the PP put forward a motion which they knew would be rejected, because its approval would have made any serious negotiation with ETA or Batasuna impossible. The decision is also timed to coincide this weekend with a demonstration called by the Asociación de Victimas de Terrorismo (AVT), a terrorist victims organisation whose leadership works very closely together with the PP. They are marching against any negotiations of any kind with ETA, and combine this with a demand to be ‘told the truth’ over the train bombings on March 11th 2004. Despite the name, the AVT is far from being the only grouping to work with victims of terrorism, nor it does it make even the slightest effort to represent the diversity of opinions that exist amongst the victims.

The idea that the truth has not been told over March 11th is the product of a two year campaign by the right wing in Spain to try and justify the actions of the then governing PP in the three days between the bombings and the elections that removed them from office. The PP attempted to focus all attention on ETA as being responsible, even when the evidence of Islamist involvement was becoming overwhelming. Since losing power they have snatched at even the tiniest hint of an ETA connection to try and suggest that somehow they must have been involved, and an elaborate conspiracy theory has been constructed around this objective. It is now relatively easy to find web pages where it is seriously suggested that the bombings were the result of pro-Socialist police officers working in collaboration with ETA and Islamist terrorists, with some also involving the French or the Moroccan secret services in the mixture of conspirators. All of these combining, of course, to overthrow the government of Jose Maria Aznar. There is no serious evidence for any of these theories; usually they rely solely on the absence of evidence that disproves them – as all good conspiracy theories should. The judicial investigation has concluded, and none of these imaginative theories of ETA involvement have been taken on board by the investigating judge; nevertheless the campaign continues because it is enough for those who believe in it simply to sow doubt and absolve “their” government.

Fortunately, there are people who are prepared to defend the memory of those who died in what was Spain’s deadliest terrorist attack, and who are prepared to devote time to refuting the conspiracy theorists. I have included links on this site to two blogs which take on this task, “Desiertos Lejanos” and “3 Días en Marzo”. Both are in Spanish although the latter has a web translation function. The name “Desiertos Lejanos” (faraway deserts) comes from a notorious Jose Maria Aznar quote, that the perpetrators of the train attacks were not going to be found in “faraway deserts or remote mountains” – attempting to suggest that they came from close to Bilbao. There is an awful lot more that could be written about this, to be continued.....


Aleksu said...

This is an excellent analysis of the situation.

The PP's position ads a roadblock towards peace.

coco said...

PP's strategy was long term. Since they lost the elections, first they tried to remove PM Zapatero's government legitimacy. Second, they accused him of "breaking Spain in pieces" when he promoted the federal regions constitutions (Estatutos) reform. And now, they are just doing the same again. It is a whole electoralist strategy in order to gain access again to the government.
However, a political party cannot base his opossition just in a continous non-constructive opposition. Even the more moderate sectors in the PP are claiming right now the Party has no future with this right orientation is supporting now.
However, this is a non-return strategy. Support now the peace process would mean the total disaster in the next elections in 2008 (although right now the only way for PP to recover government is an absolute majority, and surveys does not give it to them). The only chance for victory is to make the process of peace fail. And so this is what they are doing. Saying NO to everything, placing their electoralist interests before citizens one. This is something the society is understanding. And PP will learn the hard way in next elections what happens to this kind of political positions.

Graeme said...

The PP is currently controlled by people who were very close to Aznar and whose main motivation is simply revenge for the way in which his government ended. This leads them to adopt positions which aren’t necessarily very popular but which are always against the government, and is also the main factor behind the conspiracy theories on the March 11th bombings. The only issue where they have made any sort of advance in the opinion polls has been the reform of the Catalan autonomy statute, which plays badly for the government in much of the rest of Spain. So, barring a disaster for the government, there is little chance of the PP returning to power at the next election. Therefore they do whatever is within their power to provoke that disaster, destabilising the peace process and ensuring ETA’s continuation is not something that worries them at all if it helps to bring down the government. I see interesting parallels (despite the different situations), between the PP now and the Conservative Party in Britain after Thatcher was pushed out – I may even get round to writing about it. Thanks for the link to your blog, I think I need to open a links section for bilingual blogs.

Tom said...

I've often wondered whether it would be possible to sue the Partido Popular on the basis that their name is misleading and deceptive. Do they have something like the 'Trade Descriptions Act' here?

Nice analysis, by the way. I'd not seen your blog before (being pretty centred on BCN), but I'll keep an eye on it from now on.