Waiting for an end

Views differ on ETA's demand for a separate homeland, but its announcement of a "permanent ceasefire" has revived colle

    For Edurne Brouard there’s a permanent reminder of the cost her family paid for supporting Basque independence.  In the building where she’s lived, almost since birth, in the centre of Bilbao, there’s a plaque which commemorates her father.  It’s a bit faded and worn now, but she never tires of seeing his name.


    Santi Brouard was a doctor.  Late in the afternoon of November 20, 1984, he was treating a young girl when two men burst into his office and shot him dead.


    The family claim the two – who admitted they were mercenaries – were indirectly paid by the government to carry out the attack.


    Santi was a member of the National Board of Herri-Batasuna, the political movement which supports the idea of a separate and independent Basque homeland in the area covering Northern Spain and Southern France.  ‘The Government did not like his views and so…’ says Edurne, her voice trailing off in the wind.


    Even now she believes the Basques should have their Independence.  Twenty four hours before, she watched as the armed Separatist movement, ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna), announced it was calling a ‘permanent ceasefire’, one that would be ‘internationally verifiable’.  I ask how she feels about the news.  She smiles slightly: ‘I think my father like me would be happy today. ETA has, unilaterally and independently of all the Spanish state repression which still goes on, opened the way towards dialogue which could end the situation which our people have lived through for so many years and with so much suffering”.


    The decision to end the 43 year campaign of Europe’s last major violent political militant group has been met with some cynicism in the Spanish press.  The problem is – they’ve been here before.  In March 2006, the Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced he had negotiated a permanent ceasefire with ETA.  On the back of peace in Northern Ireland, it appeared that another one of the world’s intractable problems could possibly reach some form of resolution.  On December 30, 2006, an explosion in Madrid's Barajas International Airport killed two and any trust the government in Madrid had in ETA promises or pledges.  It says if the group is serious about peace, it must hand over all its weapons and disband immediately.

    Rosa Rodero hopes they will.  In her smart and tidy fifth floor apartment, not far from the centre of Bilbao, she lovingly treasures mementos from her husband’s 13-year police career.  Joseba Goikoetxea was a Basque nationalist.  He believed in keeping the culture, music and language of the area alive, but still saw it as part of Spain.  He worked in a special unit targeting ETA.  On November 21, 1993, he was shot by the people he was hunting. He clung on for five days before he died.  Rosa believes it was a senseless killing: ‘What does it matter if there is a border between the Basque country and Spain. Now, in Europe we have open roads.  Basques live everywhere.  The idea of a separate place was not worth one life.


    She has become close to Edurne.  She attended the annual commemoration for Santi, and shared the story of her loss.   “Every time there is an attack, we relieve everything we went through.  We have been living in a period of relative peace.  This ceasefire means we can all breathe easily and I hope it continues”.  It’s a view echoed by Edurne.  ‘I hope there will be peace, there will be talks and no-one else will die for this”.


    They are two women, two victims who on a basic level take two views of the conflict which has hit and hurt the Basque country.  But now they are united in the hope that finally, it is over.



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