Basque separatist arrested as Spain confronts region's future
The arrest of Francisco Javier Lopez Peña in France on Tuesday signals a wider crackdown against the ETA, which has waged a 40-year campaign of bombings.
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The Spanish newspaper Publico writes that Peña once said "They will never catch me," but was wrong to think that his security measures and claim to French nationality would protect him, according to the Spain Papers Review at the website TypicallySpanish.com.Skip to next paragraph
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ETA are considered terrorists by Spain, America, and the European Union. ETA activists have long used South-western France as a base, while attacking targets over the border in Spain. In December last year, two young Spanish officers working undercover in France were shot dead by ETA suspects in a cafe on the French Atlantic coast.
Agence France-Presse reports that the three other suspects captured with Thierry were: Jon Salaberria, Igor Suberbiola, and Ainhoa Zaeta Mendiondo. The Spanish interior minister said all were "important leaders" of ETA.
Salaberria, a former regional lawmaker for ETA's now-banned political wing Batasuna, has been accused of financing the Basque separatist movement.
Suberbiola was a member of a Basque independence youth movement close to ETA before going underground.
Ainhoa Ozaeta is believed to be the masked woman who read a statement in an ETA video last year that officially called off a permanent ceasefire announced in March 2006.
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said he told the head of the Basque Country regional government, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, that the plan violated the Spanish constitution, during a meeting which took place as Basque separatist rebels ETA stage a bombing offensive.
The scene is now set for a confrontation later in the year if Ibarretxe tries to push ahead with the referendum in which he hopes Basques will vote to authorise talks between local political parties on the region's future.
The issue could dominate regional elections due by next year.
Compared with their conservative rivals, the Popular Party, Spain's Socialists are seen as more tolerant of autonomy drives in both the Basque area and Catalonia.
Significantly, as well, the Socialists scored the first-ever majority win by a national party in Catalonia and the Basque area – regions where local parties seeking greater autonomy or independence have long been most influential. The Socialist scores in these two most vibrant economies in Spain – whose capitals are Barcelona and Bilbao – suggest that the party's policies of gradually greater autonomy, much criticized by the Popular Party, may have gained traction.