After the “Truce”: A Basque Story

Posted by John Rosenthal

Paul Ingendaay, writing in Wednesday’s edition (17 May) of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, is skeptical about the meaning of the "truce" declared in March by the Basque nationalist terror organization ETA. He is convinced, moreover, that if it is truly to be the prelude to a lasting peace, it is the families of the victims of ETA terror that will have to pay the highest price. To illustrate his points, he recounts the remarkable story of Ramón Baglietto:

In 1980, Baglietto was shot by a young ETA terrorist whose life he had saved as an infant. This did not prevent Cándido Aspiazu from dropping death-threats in Baglietto’s mailbox, following him in an automobile and killing him on a country road…. As astonishing as the case itself, is its chilling aftermath. For last year, Aspiazu, having been released from prison after serving his sentence, opened a glassware store on the ground floor of the same building in which Baglietto’s widow, María Pilar Elías, lives. Since then, the widow and the murderer undoubtedly cross paths in the front hall.


But the problem is not only the psychological torment involved in having every day to see the murderer of one’s own husband. The problem is the sort of community that permits such a thing to happen. Aspiazu boasts that he knows that in the little town of Azkoitia, with its 10,000 residents, "the people" is on his side. Supporters of the Spanish Popular Party (PP), on the other hand, are an infinitesimal minority in this rural stronghold of Basque nationalism. For over 12 years now, María Pilar Elías, who is constantly accompanied by bodyguards, represents the PP in the town council and she does so with strength and pride. "For the people here, he is the victim," the 64-year-old says about the murderer of her husband, "They go out of their way to avoid me."


Ingendaay points out that even if peace has finally come to the Basque country, the societal consequences of 40 years of ETA terror will not disappear so quickly:

For in a region in which approximately 40,000 people have been (or are) subject to threats, where apart from 817 dead another 2000 have been wounded in ETA terror attacks and 10,000 have been driven into exile, ordinary pedestrians, commuters and taxpayers have made looking away and hearing nothing into a habit. Not even the Basque police, whose special units for fighting terror can claim not a single arrest in thirty years, has been spared criticism in the connection.


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