terrorism

   Apart from small, professedly left-wing groups like FRAP and GRAPO, the main terrorist organization in Spain since the late 1960s is ETA, which has been responsible for by far the largest number of deaths and injuries. The peak of ETA activity was the late 1970s and early 1980s, during which deaths from terrorism increased steadily. There were 30 fatalities in 1977, 99 in 1978 and 123 in 1979. Although high-profile attacks on military and Civil Guard personnel purport to indicate that ETA is an army of liberation fighting an occupying force, by 1979–80 civilians formed the biggest group among its victims. In the year to October 1980, 114 people died as result of terrorism (an average of one every three days). Of these, fifty-seven were civilians, twenty-seven Civil Guards, eleven army officers and nine policemen. Indis-criminate attacks have been made against super-markets and resort beaches, and kidnappings for ransom have been carried out. Business people who refused to pay the so-called "revolutionary tax", and civilian politicians in the Basque country belonging to all-Spain political parties like PSOE and PP have been murdered. One of the most spectacular (and tragically ironic) terrorist actions claimed by ETA was the murder in February 1996 of the former President of the Constitutional Tribunal, Tomás y Valiente, whose commitment to civil rights had caused him in 1993 to strike down as unconstitutional certain clauses in the draconian public-order legislation introduced by the then Minister of the Interior, José Luis Corcuera.
   Some of the murders perpetrated by ETA have been of their own members, for the organization provides an illustration of the classic features of extreme nationalist terrorism. Since 1970, there have been numerous splits in the movement, caused by some members becoming disillusioned by violence, and advocating a combination of political and military activism. These "moderates" are then pushed aside by younger extremists who see armed activity as the only way to achieve their goals, and who are willing to murder those who show any inclination to compromise. Some of those ETA members who have tried to take advantage of the government's scheme of reinserción have also been killed by their former associates. In addition to death, injury and destruction of property, the main effect of terrorism has been to destabilize the political climate by the classic technique of provoking a right-wing backlash, in an attempt to legitimize armed insurrection. Opposition to democracy by the hard right in the period 1976 to 1982 would have existed in any event, but it was intensified by the scale of terrorist attacks on military and police targets, and the apparent inability of the government of the day to maintain order. Not only did this provide farright elements with an excuse to take the law into their own hands, but they also had considerable fire-power at their disposal. Gun control in Spain during Franco's time had been relatively lax by British standards, and had been administered in a way which favoured civilian supporters of the regime. It is estimated that at the time of Franco's death in 1975, there were 100,000 members of the Falange who were licensed to carry firearms. By 1975, shadowy organizations going by names such as the Batallón Vasco-Español (Spanish Basque Batallion) and Alianza Apostólica Anticomunista (Anti-Communist Apostolic Alliance, which had links to a similar group involved in the "dirty war" in Argentina) were carrying out attacks on targets in the Basque country. In January 1977, after GRAPO had kidnapped the head of the Supreme Military Tribunal, the offices of a left-wing law firm in the Calle de Atocha in the centre of Madrid were machine-gunned, and five people were killed. In August of the same year, groups of right-wing thugs broke up summer festivals in Basque towns and villages. In one of these incidents, local vigilantes captured and disarmed a gang which was found to include an off-duty police officer. The involvement of the police in episodes like this shows how far the authorities themselves succumbed to the temptation to combat terrorism by illegal means. The police and the Civil Guard perpetuated many of the authoritarian attitudes and heavy-handed methods which they had been able to use with near impunity in Franco's time. In August 1977, the PSOE deputy for Santander, Jaime Blanco, was beaten up by the police at a political meeting. In July 1978, the police went on the rampage in Rentería, a suburb of San Sebastián, looting shops and damaging private apartments. The GAL trials of the 1990s indicated clearly that the willingness to use illegal methods persisted long after the restoration of democracy.
   The lack of finesse in the attempts by the security forces to control terrorism have interacted with another characteristic feature of physical-force nationalism, namely, the tendency of popular opinion to fluctuate towards and away from terrorism in response to actions by both terrorists and police. When José María Ryan, an engineer working on the Lemóniz nuclear power project, was kidnapped and murdered in February 1981, there was a general strike throughout Basque country, and 300,000 people demonstrated in protest. Only a week later, however, an ETA member, Arregui, died in custody after being beaten and tortured, which led to new demonstrations, this time against the government. This was only one of several incidents in which detainees were subjected to brutal treatment in custody, most commonly by the Civil Guard, though the Policía Nacional were not entirely blameless either.
   Despite the frequency of complaints about illtreatment in custody throughout the 1980s, real progress in changing the attitudes of the security forces was apparent by 1981, when the police helped to defeat the attempted military coup of 23 February, the Tejerazo. The special antiterrorist units of the police have proved effective against right-wing terrorism as well as against other terrorist organizations. In addition, the Constitutional Defence Law of 1981 provided for the setting up of an integrated anti-terrorist command (the Mando Unico Antiterrorista), to coordinate the activities of the army, the police and the Civil Guard. The MUA effectively neutralized the politico-military wing of ETA by capturing its entire arsenal in January 1982. Effective cooperation by the French authorities has led to the capture of leading ETA commanders, and the considerable reduction in terrorist incidents. The problem is, however, far from solved, as ETA has begun to rely more on what they call comandos legales, active units made up of people who have no police records, and are therefore difficult to trace. It is in the nature of terrorism, especially nationalist terrorism, to be resistant to political arguments, and the clear preference for constitutional nationalism displayed repeatedly in elections by the majority of Basques does not by any means guarantee an early end to the problem. Furthermore, though GRAPO has been dormant for long periods since it first emerged in 1975, it has not disappeared. In an attempt to put pressure on the authorities over the release of prisoners belonging to the organization, GRAPO bombed government offices in Madrid in March 1998.
   Further reading
   - Preston, P. (1986) The Triumph of Democracy in Spain, London and New York: Methuen (the index entries give easy access to the numerous references to terrorism scattered throughout this classic study).
   - Sullivan, J. (1988) ETA and Basque Nationalism: the Fight for Euskadi, 1890-1986, London: Routledge (the standard work on Basque terrorism).
   EAMONN RODGERS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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