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Spanish TV news is an excellent service, which follows public affairs in an intelligent and sensitive way. I have been watching it for years, and never has it been more grim and gripping than today. Prime Minister José María Aznar, a very impressive individual who once barely escaped a car bomb attempt by the Basque terrorist ETA, was awakened at 3 a.m. with the news that ETA had announced that it was ending the truce which had lasted fourteen months, for reasons not clear. ETA spoke of a secret meeting with the Basque Nationalist Party, which it accused of not keeping its promise. The party leader retorted that ETA was lying and that the meeting had never taken place.
Aznar immediately contacted the heads of all the major parties, including the Communists, who were unanimous in condemning ETA. Dressed in black, a grim González then appeared on the porch of his official residence and read for television a statement that the government would never give in to terrorism. In the back of everyone´s mind was the fear that the killings would resume, mingled with the collective memory of the Civil War.
There were parallel developments in Consica, where independentists blew up government buildings, and in Northern Ireland, where IRA issued a statement similar to that of ETA when it suspended violence, leaving everyone wondering if the promise was for good.
In all three cases, a group of primitive, mostly young people, belong to a minority ethnic group with alleged ethnic grievances. If the central government were to decide to use the force of which it disposes, it could in Spain restart the Civil War.
Some WAISers allege that Catholic clerics have been involved in the military activities of armed bands in Mexico and Central America. These bands are more numerous and have a real ethnic grievance. In Spain, the role of the Church is ambiguous. After all, the saint of the Reconquest, Santiago Matamoros, from the sky led the Christians into battle, sword in hand. The violent Carlistas, who waged three wars in the nineteenth century against the liberal government, were Catholic conservatives.
It is significant that, in the long broadcast series of statements by Spanish leaders condemning ETA, there was no reference to the Church or to clerics. The bishop of San Sebastián has been accused, I do not know with how much justice, of sympathizing with ETA. In Russia and Serbia, the role of the Orthodox Church has been ambiguous. Perhaps each Church is simply trying to survive.
Ronald Hilton - 11/28/99