MADRID — Spreading their message with hidden bombs and intimidation campaigns, Spain's Basque separatists have broken a short-lived cease-fire and resumed terrorist activities at key tourist sites throughout Spain.
Attacks had decreased during the first six months of the year. And in June the Basque separatist group, Basque Homeland and Freedom (ETA), announced a truce in its nearly 30-year-old terror campaign for an independent Basque state in northern Spain.
But the cease-fire did not last. So far this month the Basque guerrillas have set off a series of bombs, including nearly two-dozen explosions at Spanish resort sites and an airport bomb in the northeast Mediterranean town of Reus that injured 35 people, mostly British vacationers.
ETA, which has killed some 800 people since it took up arms in 1968, targets resorts each summer with small bombs in a bid to cripple tourism, which provides most of the country's foreign exchange.
The attacks resume
On July 10, as Spanish political parties were meeting in Madrid to reaffirm national unity in the fight against ETA terrorism, a small bomb exploded at the Alhambra, a Moorish palace in the southern city of Granada, one of Spain's premier tourist attractions.
Last Friday, ETA attackers killed the Basque owner of a construction company who had refused to pay the group's so-called revolutionary tax. Along with kidnapping, ETA uses the tax to raise funds.
The businessman, Isidro Usabiaga, was ETA's fifth murder victim this year.
Interior Minister Jaime Mayor Oreja, who is also a Basque, told Spanish radio that, "without a doubt Usabiaga had a great sense of civic duty, playing a very significant role by standing up to the revolutionary tax."
Despite the upsurge in summer attacks, the government says that several key factors indicate an eventual withering of the terrorist problem.
The strongest indicator is that the majority of the Basques are increasingly outraged at ETA's terrorist methods, the government says. Peace marches in the Basque country protesting against separatist violence have grown in size each time ETA claims a new victim.
Support for Herri Batasuna, ETA's political wing, has steadily declined in recent years as well.
Moderate Basques say that ETA is hanging on to a separatist attitude that took root during oppressive treatment of the Basque region under the regime of Gen. Francisco Franco. Since the dictator's death in 1975, government relations with the Basques have steadily improved. Today the Basque region enjoys more autonomy than ever.
Political dialogue succeeds
When the conservative Popular Party fell short of an absolute majority in the March national elections, it entered into a parliamentary pact with the moderate Basque National Party in order to form a government. With the legislative marriage working well, the Basque region is expected to win major concessions from Madrid, including subsidies, tax breaks, and more control over ports, jobs, and social programs.
In addition, the new government has been working to secure more cooperation from Paris to hunt down and extradite Spanish Basque terrorists who escape into bordering France.
But despite these developments, the general feeling in Spain is that while the government may come close to ending terrorism in the country, it will never defeat ETA as long as the armed terrorists hang onto their notion of separatism while rejecting the changes that are already bringing the region more autonomy.