Deja Vu in Spain: Basques v. Fascists

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…

14 Jan 2005 13:57:04 GMT

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.


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?

Thousands rally in Madrid for bomb victims

Monday Jan. 24

Madrid _ More than 10,000 people, including senior politicians, took to the streets of Madrid on Saturday to remember the victims of terrorism, police and organisers said.

But tempers frayed as dozens of opponents of the Socialist government elected three days after the March 11 train bombings attempted to manhandle Defence Minister Jose Bono, who swiftly left the gathering.

Some participants voiced disapproval at the absence of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and instead vented their anger at Mr Bono.

“I didn’t come here to receive applause _ but I didn’t think I would have to fend off insults,” Mr Bono said after, blaming what he called minority “fanatics”.

Some demonstrators chanted “out, out”, at Mr Bono and other Socialist politicians, but most marched in orderly fashion, many waving banners demanding “dignity and justice for victims”.

Spain’s Association for the Victims of Terrorism called the march, 10 months on from the train blasts, which killed 191 people in the country’s worst terrorist attacks, allegedly by Islamic radicals.

The former conservative government first blamed the bombings on Basque separatist group ETA.

ETA on Tuesday detonated a car bomb near Bilbao in the northern Basque region, injuring a policewoman. Despite the bombing there is optimism ETA, and outlawed radical party Batasuna, wish to engage in a dialogue with the government on the Basque region’s future.AFP

  1. Who are the fascists?


    I dont understand the meaning of the title of the article "Deja-vu in Spain: Basques vs Fascists" and also the the phrase "In reaction, the Franco-nostalgists are coming out of the woodwork…" which you have put in the introduction. Which fascists are you talking about? The people who chased Mr Bono? The opponents of separation of Pais Vasco and Catalunya from Spain? The articles themselves (from Bangkok Post! and Alternet) do not mention any fascists?

    I think it’s very important to be sober when it comes to invoking terms like fasicists and Franco-nostalgists. The title "Basques vs Fascists" implies that the absolute majority of the spanish people are fascists, since they oppose further fragmentation of the spanish state.

    Who are the real fascist? Maybe it is the people who kill and maim their own people in their own country if they do not agree with certain methods and goals(ETA and those who support them). The latest example of this fascist tactique is found in the article above: "ETA on Tuesday detonated a car bomb near Bilbao in the northern Basque" – one of many incidences of bombings in Northern Spain the last year. A strategy to polarize the conflict and the opinion and thereby forcing a recognition from the spanish government. The ones who pay for this strategy are the people who have to live in fear of being blasted by a bomb while shopping or walking the streets.

    1. Um, the Fascists are the Fascists, it would appear…

      Anja, nothing I wrote was intended as a defense of the ETA’s terroristic tactics. But I find it extremely disconcerting that Atutxa was "jeered by a group waving red fascist flags." Don’t you?

      I share your concerns about "polarization"–but we have to have a critique of BOTH poles: the extremist Basque nationalism of ETA and the extremist Spanish nationalism of the Franco-nostalgists. This situation isn’t going to be resolved by denying the legitimate aspirations of the Basques and insisting on central control from Madrid. Do you disagree?

      (BTW, these stories were just PICKED UP by Bangkok Post and Alternet. They are from Reuters and AFP.)

      1. Bill, you are right.  Fascis

        Bill, you are right.  Fascism is even a "not so hidden" aspect of certain sectors of Spanish politics.  There are still politicians of the PP who were outright fascists serving under the Franco govt.   Fraga is the first that comes to mind.  There are more.  And , of course, there are many so called "victims rights" groups, who claim to just want to speak out and protect the victims of ETA, but in fact are viciously and rabidly fighting against any legal and non-violent expression of Basque nationalism.  Foro de Ermua, AVT, etc.  You will find fascists among them, for sure.  Of course, I also consider the members of the ETA brigades as fascists.  the problem is that certain investigating judges, (Garzon comes to mind) have decided that anyone who supports ANY of the goas of ETA, and I am talking legal and non-violent goals, are considered to be supporters of ETA.  Foro de Ermua publiclly accused Basque Prime minister Ibarretxe of being a "delinquent" and a "supporter of terrorism".  youth groups advocating civil disobediance to bring about awareness and of Basque political and cultural issues and change, are prosecuted as terrorists.  Garzon has even said that civil disobediance is a tool of terrorism, because it is trying to breakdown the Spanish constitution.

        Oh, jeez, I better stop now, I’m going off on a tangent, but I get darn sick of the Basques being made out to be villains all the time, when the media never reports on what is really happening…..censorship, torture, the highest paramilitary occupation rate in Spain, unconstitutional prisoner dispersal policies……you wont read about that in Reuters, only about bombs and Basque restaurants….