Basque leftists' foray into politics meets deep skepticism in Spain
A political party with ties to the Basque separatist group ETA is seeking official recognition in order to field political candidates in upcoming elections.
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Skepticism was also palpable during a chaotic and confrontational press conference where Sortu supporters were joined by two foreign “guarantors,” including a high-ranking party official of Sinn Féin, the political wing of the dissolved Irish Republican Army.Skip to next paragraph
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Journalists asked why Sortu didn’t show its independence by publicly demanding that ETA disband and surrender their weapons, echoing the feeling of a vast majority of Spaniards.
“Batasuna, or whatever name they use, is a part of ETA, and to think of it as something different is simply unrealistic,” says Mikel Buesa, an expert on terrorist finances in the Universidad Cumplutense de Madrid who has written extensively about the Basque group.
Mr. Buesa, whose brother was killed by ETA militants in 2000, says he expects the Supreme Court to reject the new party’s request, alienating the group even further until it withers away.
Others though say that even if this is the old Batasuna, the opportunity must be seized to empower political activists willing to break with ETA’s violent past.
“I hope the new party is approved because it meets the criteria,” says Ignacio Sánchez-Cuenca, a sociology professor in the Universidad Complutense de Madrid who has written extensively about ETA. “Some want it to be put in some sort of political quarantine, but the conditions are ripe, and if Batasuna has taken this road they should be allowed.”
But the government has its hands tied, Mr. Sánchez-Cuenca says. “Public opinion is skeptical and the political climate is not favorable to reach a negotiated end to terrorism. The logical thing would be for this to end once and for all, but it will be a long process that is in nobody’s interests to end.”
Alex Maskey, the Sinn Féin delegate in Wednesday’s Sortu presentation and a negotiator in the Irish peace process that led to the IRA’s disbanding, said these first steps are indeed part of the gradual process. “Nobody will ever agree on the past, but you can agree on the future,” he said.