It has hardly made international headlines, but there has been a wave of bombings at Spanish resorts by ETA in recent months–not claiming any lives, but causing several injuries and wreaking some property damage. Now the Basque regional government is pushing an autonomy plan that stops just barely short of full independence in a bid to appease the separatists. Catalonia, following the Pais Vasco’s lead, is also pressing for near-independence. In reaction, the Franco-nostalgists are coming out of the woodwork…
By Daniel Flynn MADRID, Jan 14 (Reuters) – The rift between Madrid and its rebellious Basque region widened on Friday as the regional government pushed ahead with a plan for virtual independence and mainstream parties closed ranks to block it. Delivering a copy of the controversial plan to Spain’s parliament, the speaker of the Basque regional assembly urged national parties not to reject out of hand the proposal for a "status of free association" with Spain.
"The Basque people would never understand such an immediate rejection by Madrid, without any attempt at understanding," said Juan Maria Atutxa, who was jeered by a small group waving red fascist flags as he entered parliament.
Spain’s media welcomed the tougher stance taken by Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who on Thursday flatly refused a proposal by the Basque regional premier to negotiate. Facing near-certain defeat in the Madrid parliament, Basque leader Juan Jose Ibarretxe vowed to push ahead with a referendum in the restive Basque region on his plan, which he says could end decades of violence by the separatist guerrilla group ETA. Zapatero, who relies on small regional parties for his parliamentary majority, faces the delicate task of blocking Ibarretxe’s manoeuvres without alienating his allies. He was due to propose a pact on Friday at a meeting with the leader of the opposition Popular Party (PP), Mariano Rajoy, who has accused Zapatero of being soft on the Basques and called for the government to take the autonomy proposal to the courts. "The prime minister has shown he … can defend the constitutional order and that he will defend it firmly," Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said after a cabinet meeting on Friday.
CATALONIA WANTS MORE POWER
Economic powerhouse Catalonia also wants to wrest more power from Madrid this year, and a Basque referendum would be a threat to the unity of Spain, already one of Europe’s most decentralised nations. The leader of the Republic Left of Catalonia (ERC), which governs in Catalonia with the Socialists, has said his party aims to go a step further than the Ibarretxe plan by winning independence. Other Catalan parties are more moderate. "Our future does not lie with a different type of Spain, but in a Catalonia in Europe," the ERC’s Josep LLuis Carod-Rovira was quoted as saying on Friday in El Mundo. "The Ibarretxe plan is not enough." Zapatero, who took office in April vowing more dialogue with nationalists than his conservative predecessor Jose Maria Aznar, aims to stymie the Ibarretxe plan in the Madrid parliament before winning Basque regional elections due in May. Although approval by Spain’s parliament is required before any Basque referendum can be legally binding, polls suggest an unofficial regional ballot would narrowly back the plan. Ibarretxe, a moderate nationalist, presented his proposal as a means to end ETA’s campaign of bombings and shootings that has killed about 850 people since 1968. He has said an ETA truce is essential for a referendum. Senior Basque nationalist politicians are confidently predicting that ETA will put down its arms in the coming months, after a party banned as the political wing of the armed group unexpectedly backed the plan in the regional parliament. END
AND… was it Franco-nostalgists who chased one of Zapatero’s ministers out of an anti-terrorism rally in Madrid?