ETA still wants independent Basque Country

Separatist group Basque Homeland & Liberty (ETA) said in an April 16 communique that it has not abandoned its goal of an independent Basque state along the French-Spanish border despite giving up its arms. The statement published in the Basque newspaper Gara said disarmament "wasn't going to be a bargaining chip, but rather a way to show the intransigence of the [Spanish and French] states and to further the independence movement." It added that the separatist group has entered a phase in which it would take "decisions from among all its members for moving forward." The statement comes two weeks after ETA gave French authorities a list of eight arms caches at locations in the Pyrenees, said to represent the last of the group's weapons. A citizen International Verification Commission served as a liaison between ETA and the authorities.

Founded in 1959, ETA has been blamed for the deaths of 829 in a string of armed attacks since 1968, mostly within Spanish territory. In 2011, following arrests of its senior leadership and a wave of mass protests after particularly bloody attacks, ETA announced that it had abandoned its armed struggle. It has more recently sought to negotiate a formal disarmament in exchange for amnesties or improved conditions for roughly 350 of its followers held in Spanish and French prisons, as well as for current members living underground. But Madrid remains intransigent, even after the surrender of the arms caches.  "They must disarm and disband," Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo told reporters. "They won't get anything from the Spanish state, which has the support of all democrats." (DW, April 16; AFP, EuroNews, April 8)