Sexta-feira, 30 de Julho de 2010

ETA’s decline: Big political opportunities ahead

By Diogo Noivo

 

July 30th marks a year without Basque terrorist attacks, a clear sign of ETA's decline. However, one cannot say that this day marks a year without fatalities: Jean-Serge Nerin, a French police officer was killed in March 16th during a shootout.

ETA's decline started many years ago. In a nutshell, it began during José María Aznar's second term in office (2000-2004), then had an interlude for the most part of José Luis Zapatero's first term (2004-2008) and finally regained its impetus during Prime Minister Zapatero's second and current government.

ETA has never been as debilitated as it is at this stage. The Basque terrorist organization is lead by young militants with a weak ideological preparation and a scarce (if any) paramilitary training. Furthermore, apart from a committed and mounting police pressure within Spain, ETA now also has to face France – President Nicolas Sarkozy made the fight against ETA a French national goal. Among others, the aforementioned facts are behind the chain of high-profile arrests ETA has suffered over the last months. ETA is facing serious problems in planning, logistics, recruitment and financing.

ETA is in a corner, which constitutes very good news for the Spanish government not only because of the lower probability of terrorist attacks, but mainly due to the political opportunities it presents. ETA's debility gives the government the upper hand in a negotiation scenario. In fact, there are already rumors of a new cease-fire to be offered by the Basque terrorists which, given the circumstances, would not be surprising. The real question is to know what the cease of hostilities will be used for this time. In the past, Zapatero ended up serving ETA's rearmament and propagandistic purposes. Now, he has the necessary conditions to take full control of the process but, in order to successfully accomplish it, police forces and the courts cannot loosen their grip. Peace talks cannot compromise law abidance.

As far as negotiations with ETA are concerned, Zapatero's record is far from brilliant. Nonetheless, one must recognize that the current strategy is correct and working. Let's just hope that the Spanish Prime Minister has learned from his past mistakes...

 

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