History of ETA
ETA had its origin in a nationalist group. EKIN, formed as a result of the moderate actions of the Partido Nacionalista Vasco (PNV, Basque Nationalist Party) during the Franco regime. EKIN was formed by young activists from Bizkaia and Guipuzkao, who felt that the PNV was not acting energeticaly enough to advance the Basque cause.
EKIN attempted to gain the support of the PNV, however the opposition of some of its leaders prevented cooperation. In 1958, EKIN became Euskadi Ta Askatasuna ( E.T.A – Basque Homeland and Freedom). ETA was the only armed group to emerge in the Spanish state during the Franco regime.
ETA´s first activities involved planting explosives in the citites of Bilbao, Vitoria and Santander in 1959. Its first military action was in 1961 – an unsuccesfull attempt to derail a train carrying civil war veterans travelling to Donostia to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War. The police responded with road controls, arrests, house searches and the widespread use of torture. As a result many Basques went into exile abroad, while others joined ETA´s struggle.
When general Franco died in 1976 and democracy was restored in Spain, many exiles returned. Spain´s new democratic governement granted considerable autonomy to the country´s regions. The basque region was given its own parliament and was granted control over issues such as education and taxes, while the distinctive Basque language and culture was promoted in school.
However for a minority in the ETA this partial autonomy was not enough. They believed that Basques should have full independence from Spain and to this end they intensified the violence against security forces and politicians. These become the goup´s main targets.
The former Socialist government of Felipe Gonzales attempted to combat ETA´s violence by setting up GAL anti-terrorist liberation groups, who were respomsible for the deaths of 28 suspected ETA members. Secret talks between ETA and the government were held in 1992 in Algeria, but failed to bring an end to the conflict. In July 1997 a estimated 6 million Spanish people took to the streets to condemn ETA violence, following the brutal kidnapping and murder of a young Basque politician.
The current Spanish government has adopted a hardline approach to all things related to the ETA and in December 1997 the entire 23 members leadership of ETA´s political wing Herri Batasuma were sentenced to seven years each in jail for collaborating with the armed group.
The recent peace agreement in Northern Ireland heavily influenced the ETA. In september 1998, ETA announced its first cease – fire since the start of its 30-year campaign of violence. The ceasfire was meant to lay the foundation for talks between the organizations political wing, Herri Baatasuna and the Spanish government.
The Spanish government dissmised the ceasfire as stalling tactic to allow ETA was taking advantage of the truce to rearm and reorganize in preparation for a return to the armed struggle. During the truce the group planned and carried out raids on a number of arms depots and munitions factories.
At the end of November, 14 months after the declaration of ceasfire, ETA announced that its militants would resume attacks on Spanish targets from 3.December 1999. The organizations blamed its decision to end the truce on the repressive measures taken by the Spanish government and on the failure mainstream Basque nationalist to work with it toward the creation of an independent Basque state. An official statement said. “The peace procces is blocked and poisoned. Responding to a pledge to defend the Basque Country, the decisions has been taken to reactivate the use of armed struggle.”