Endgame for ETA : Elusive Peace in the Basque Country
The violent Basque separatist group ETA took shape in Franco’s Spain, yet claimed the majority of its victims under democracy. For most Spaniards it became an aberration, a criminal and terrorist band whose persistence defied explanation. Others, mainly Basques (but only some Basques) understood ETA as the violent expression of a political conflict that remained the unfinished business of Spain’s transition to democracy. Such differences hindered efforts to ‘defeat’ ETA’s terrorism on the one hand and ‘resolve the Basque conflict’ on the other for more than three decades.
Endgame for ETA offers a compelling account of the long path to ETA’s declaration of a definitive end to its armed activity in October 2011. Its political surrogates remain as part of a resurgence of regional nationalism — in the Basque Country as in Catalonia — that is but one element of multiple crises confronting Spain.
The Basque case has been cited as an example of the perils of ‘talking to terrorists’. Drawing on extensive field research, Teresa Whitfield argues that while negotiations did not prosper, a form of ‘virtual peacemaking’ was an essential complement to robust police action and social condemnation. Together they helped to bring ETA’s violence to an end and return its grievances to the channels of normal politics.