The Basque terrorists' permanent cease-fire ended this morning. Nine months ago, the terrorist organization said it would lay down its arms and begin peace talks with the Spanish government.
From the beginning, there were doubts. The terrorists had declared cease-fires before that turned out to be periods of re-armament.
This fall, hopes dimmed when Basque terrorists stole 350 guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition from a arms factory in France. Later a fresh cache of explosives was discovered in Spain. Organized street violence continued in Basque Country and the neighboring province of Navarra with 200 incidents over several months. Buses and buildings were firebombed and rioters even tried to set fire to a police car to kill the two officers inside. Terrorists continued to extort a "revolutionary tax" from businesses: hand over the cash or something will happen to your business or family.
This morning a car bomb destroyed three floors of a parking structure at Madrid's airport. At least a score of people were injured, none seriously, but two people were missing as of Saturday evening. The terrorists made telephone calls an hour ahead of time to alert authorities of the bomb, who cleared thousands of travelers and workers from the scene before the explosion, or the death toll would have been staggering.
Why is this happening?
In Spain, the terrorists are known as ETA, which stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna. This means "Basque Homeland and Freedom" in the Basque language. The Basques are an ancient people with a distinct language who live in northern Spain and southern France. They have always been independent-minded, but some Basques became violently radicalized by the vision of the founder of Basque nationalism, Sabino Arana. More than a century ago, on Easter Sunday, he had a vision from God, who told him that Basques were racially superior to Spaniards and must not be ruled by them.
ETA turned to assassination during the last years of the Franco dictatorship and continued to kill during the transition and democracy: 800 dead during the last 40 years. The goal is an independent nation where non-Basques will be second-class citizens or possibly even cleansed from the population.
But police had arrested many terrorists in recent years and seriously weakened ETA's structure. The level of violence diminished, and three years passed without a killing. It looked like terrorism simply would not succeed, and ETA had less support than ever. When peace talks were suggested early this year, many people felt hope, including me. Madrid, where I live, had often been the target of ETA attacks. Sadly, as of this morning, it still is.