Wednesday, August 29, 2007

ETA Set The Agenda

In the end it was hardly surprising that it was ETA who managed to bring the summer political break to a close. Their bombing of a Guardia Civil barracks in the Basque town of Durango at the end of last week reminded us that it was only a matter of time before they would be able to carry out a successful attack. Fortunately the success of the attack was limited to its headline grabbing capacity, nobody received more than light injuries despite the use of an estimated 80-100 kilos of “homemade” explosive. In spite of the success of recent police operations against them, the limitations of a strategy based entirely around policing are demonstrated by a group that may be weakened but which still retains the capacity to act. It's hard to know whether the recent successes in stopping ETA attacks are down to fortune, inexperience on the part of the newest ETA recruits, or inside knowledge.

As predictable as the attack itself was the political reaction to it. The government called for unity in the face of the threat of more attacks, and secure in the knowledge that such a united front would never be joined by the main opposition party, the Partido Popular (PP). The PP came out with even more predictable statements that they could not even claim to have written in response to the bombing, this was a script that was written months if not years ago, and whose objective is to place responsibility for any actions by ETA at the door of the government. They continue to follow their leader Mariano Rajoy’s catch-all formula that if ETA don’t place bombs it is because the government has made concessions; and if they do place bombs it is because the government has not delivered on these concessions. They have also intensified their calls for those parties who refuse to condemn the bombing to be made illegal – a proposal that would definitely get interesting if we started to apply it to all politically provoked violence and not just that of ETA.

Meanwhile there is interesting movement in Basque politics; a rift seems to be growing inside the conservative nationalist party (PNV) that dominates politics in the region. The divide seems to be between pragmatists who believe in looking for progress based on agreement with the governing PSOE, and those who favour a more openly nationalist course which would include an attempt to hold a referendum on independence. At the same time there are clear signs of a new anti-nationalist party being formed from what remains of the supposedly anti-ETA organisation Basta Ya, which enjoyed its greatest success before 2004 when the PP and PSOE joined together in a remarkably unsuccessful attempt to unseat the PNV from the regional government. The new party, expected to be unveiled in early September will feature at least one well known refugee from the PSOE, Rosa Diez. Its anti-nationalist perspective will of course be aimed at regional nationalism only, criticism of flag waving Spaniards in Madrid will not be forthcoming. The model being followed is that of Ciutadans, the new party that so far has enjoyed a very brief moment of glory in Cataluña. The Basque version will have bigger names, with philosopher Fernando Savater also involved, but will end up hunting for votes in the same pond as the PP and the PSOE. Apart from an anti-nationalist stance already covered by the PP, it’s hard to see what they can offer.


Ed S. said...

I think it's simply disgusting the way that Spanish politicians (the PP to be exact) are using ETA victims to their own benefit with no remorse whatsoever.

It's simply unethical, what it's gonna take to make them realise? I wonder what other countries would say about that...

Regarding ETA... I don't think they're ever gonna put a solution to it.

Graeme said...

Well the PP don't show any signs of losing the habit - the only thing that will make them change will be electoral defeat.