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Around the world are groups of violent young men who somehow get guns and explosives, hide their faces with some kind of a mask, and go around killing and terrorizing peaceful citizens ruthlessly. There are several such groups in Europe, but the worst is ETA, against which the Spanish people have held mass protests.
The latest atrocity was the killing of a highly respected journalist for El Mundo, José Luis López de la Calle, who had been jailed as a Communist by Franco. He founded the Ermua Forum, the aim of which was to bring peace among the various Basque groups and between them and the Madrid government.
His murder was especially resented as an attempt to muzzle the press. There were mass demonstrations throughout Spain, in which crowds observed three minutes of silence. For the first time, King Juan Carlos took part in such a demonstration. ETA's reply was simple. It continued its violence and said it would attack journalists as long as the press told lies about ETA.
The Basque Nationalist Party behaved in its usual ambivalent way. It again refused to join in the general demonstration and staged its own, using different language. One has to read nationalist statements very carefully. Replying to the charge by Prime Minister José María Aznar that the Nationalists refused to take a clear anti-ETA stand, the party leader retorted that Aznar´s Partido Popular had refused to vote in favor of a motion condemning Franco. I did not remember that vote in the Spanish parliament, so Stanley Payne pointed out that it was just a committee vote in which the party abstained. To which a liberal Spaniard replied that silence was the equivalent of a no vote.. I am not sure it was. To charges that his party is the heir of the Franco regime, Aznar replies firmly that his party is centrist; he rejects the term conservative. The Socialist Party was trying to bring up the whole question of the Civil War, which Aznar rightly thinks should not become a topic for arguments which would revive old hatreds and possibly destroy Spain´s admirable but fragile democracy.
Ronald Hilton - 5/12/00