The notorious Basque terrorist organization Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), meaning “Basque County and Freedom”, disbanded officially on May 3rd, 2018. It had already announced the definitive termination of its violent activities on October 20th, 2011.
Leftist students, unsatisfied with the representatives of the traditionalist Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and their strong Christian roots, had founded ETA in the northern city of Bilbao on July 31st, 1959. These radicals proposed an ideological alternative to the PNV, perceived as too moderate and passive in the struggle against what they considered massive oppression in General Francisco Franco’s Spain.
The four basic pillars of this ideology were the defense of the Basque language “euskara” (which in fact consisted mostly of regional dialects), ethnicism (thinly disguised racism), hatred of Spain (the supposed source of all evil) and independence from Spain (creating a Greater Basque State by combining territories which actually belong to two different countries: the Spanish provinces Álava, Vizcaya, Guipúzcoa and Navarra, and a part of the French Department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, known as the Pays Basque Français, with Labourd, Lower Navarre and Soule.
Their first violent action, a failed attempted to derail a train to the coastal city of San Sebastián occupied by Francoist sympathizers, took place on July 18th, 1961. The date was carefully chosen, as those targeted were on their way to a commemoration of the “Alzamiento”, the uprising by the military against the Spanish Republic in 1936, and also the beginning of the Civil War which the Left had lost.
During these first years, Spanish police chased ETA members for setting off small, infective explosive devices, tagging “Gora Euskadi” (Long live Euskadi!) and flying ikurriñas, the red, green and white Basque flag. During its I Assembly in May 1962 in the Monastery of Belloc, near the southern French city of Bayonne, claimed as “national territory”, it presented itself for the first time as a ”Basque Revolutionary Movement for National Liberation”, consolidating its organizational base. The group also made clear its total rejection of any cooperation with non-nationalist Basque parties or associations, and put an emphasis on strong political proselytism. Afterwards, a self-proclaimed “clandestine revolutionary organization” that propagated armed struggle to achieve independence for their dreamed homeland would assassinate more than 800 people of very different backgrounds all over Spain.
On June 7th, 1968, José Ángel Pardines Arcay became their first (random) victim during a police control in the province of Guipúzcoa. On the 2nd of August of the same year, ETA shot high-ranking police officer Melitón Manzanas in front of his house in the border town of Irún. The last victims in Spain were two young members of a special police force murdered on July 30th, 2009 in Mallorca, but the very last one was a gendarme shot dead south of Paris on March 16th, 2010. Their bloodiest massacre was the car-bombing of a shopping mall in Barcelona on June 19th, 1987, which killed 21 and injured 45.
Since the first abduction in December 1970, ETA kidnapped 77 people- not only to finance itself, but more and more as a way of pressuring and blackmailing the government. Not all victims survived this procedure. Just like the Mafia would do, until March 2011 ETA also sent threatening letters to Basque entrepreneurs, demanding the payment of a certain amount of money as a “revolutionary tax”, which even included a “delay interest rate”, to guarantee their targets’ smooth business activities and psychical integrity. Another way of maintaining operational structures, and supporting fugitive militants, was a huge clandestine business empire that extended from the Basque Country to Cuba, Panama, Venezuela and Cape Verde. It was dismantled stepwise by Spanish law enforcement agencies between 1998 and 2002.
Just months before the Universal Exposition of Seville and the Barcelona Olympic Summer Games,on March 29th, 1992, and after a meticulous investigation by Spanish security forces, French police arrested ETA’s complete leadership in Bidart, near the shared border. On July 11th, the new terrorist nomenclature asked for a truce, which never materialized. Less than a year later, the killings resumed. Unfortunately, they would go on for another long 17 years.
P.D.: As a direct result of the Antiterrorist Pact signed in December 2000 between the conservative PP government and the main opposition party, the socialist PSOE, a year later a foundation was established in Madrid to help all victims of terrorism.