Terrorism is not as much about killing a maximum number of civilians as sending a message about its aims and aspirations. ETA, a Basque separatist, nationalist group has stood for the independence of the Basque province since 1959 deriving encouragement from Marxism, nationalism, and other kinds of ideological influence. To achieve its strategy, the multi-compartmental group with a complex and secret structure of limited interconnections has used a set of tactical approaches like killings, intimidation, and humiliation. While its leadership has been subject to rotations due to it being targeted by the authorities, it has forged multiple ties with similar radical or extremist organizations worldwide. Over the decades, ETA has made great impact conducting scores of high-profile attacks against the members of parliament, industrialists or the rich men, top officials, different non-supporters, and establishments, whether private or state. Despite the reportedly waning support, the days of the group are far from counted. The point is that ETA is a nationalist, extremist group fighting for the independence of the Basque province; it has done great damage and there is the possibility of it regaining the power despite the signs of decline induced by leadership and other losses.
The Group Origin
Dictator Franco unleashed punishment against the Basque Country in response to it having lent support to the Republicans in the days of the Spanish Civil War. What he did was forbid the Basque language and take other punitive measures, which was a signal for a strong nationalist movement to rise. On July 31, 1959, university students from the so-called spinoff study group and the members of the Basque Nationalist Party closed ranks to found ETA. An assembly of delegates summoned in 1962 and gave the group its structure, form, and the underlying philosophy (Atkins, 2004, p.87). Over ETA’s history, the leadership of the group has forged partnerships and alliances with other extremist groups. In its early years, it established contacts with terrorist organizations in Latin American countries, such as Argentina, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Chile. In the later years of the 1970s, Middle Eastern terrorist organizations like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine trained the Basque extremists. In addition, ETA is believed to have developed contacts with the Italian Red Brigades, the German Red Army Faction, and the French Action Directe. There is a word that the terrorist group has also acted in cooperation with Corsican and Breton separatists (Atkins, 2004, p.88). The group allegedly once forged connections with the Provisional Irish Republican Army, with which it shares common traits. The government of Cuba has provided ETA members with training as well as harboring them (Terrorist group profiles 1989, p.36).
Aims and Ideology
Atkins (2004, p.87) stated that ETA was a Basques separatist movement that had embraced terrorism as an approach to establishing a Basque state in Spain. The original aim of the group was complete autonomy for all seven Basque Provinces in the northern part of the country. The 1962 assembly of ETA delegates agreed the objective of the revolutionary, liberation movement would be to found a socialist Basque state on the Iberian Peninsula. Mount Holyoke University (n.d.) noted that the major demands or aims of the group were self-determination for the Basque country, the unification of Euskadi and the province of Navarre, and the regrouping of the province of ETA activists kept in prison serving their prison terms in the Basque region of Spain.
Iniciativas Internationales ES (n.d.) noted that he ideological and strategic foundation of the group became manifest in the course of the second and third assemblies. The writings on Cuban, Vietnamese, and Algerian revolutions, “Vasconia” written by Basque writer Federico Krutwig and “Les Damnés de la Terre” created by Frantz Fanon were what influenced the leadership of ETA. The organization recognized national liberation and socialism as the supporting columns of their movement, which showed a transition towards leftist views. Huszka (2014, p.174) claimed that the organization had embraced Marxist ideology together with nationalist mindset. Marxism became the way to make it known their opposition to the regime of Dictator Franco whose was a conservative and right wing platform. Espousing the working class, ETA members have participated in the strikes of the working class emphasizing the class rather than ethnic struggle.
Leadership and Structure
Seeing that the Spanish authorities have targeted ETA’s top members, group leaders are anything but long-term, still less permanent. Following the 1968 assassination of police chief Meliton Manzanas, according to Atkins (2004, p.88), 16 leaders of the group stood trial and received a 30-year prison term that changed the previously adjudged capital punishment. The loss of leadership hit hard at the operational ability of the group, yet new leaders appeared. In 1974, the terrorist organization cleft into two competing factions, such as the ETA-PM, the proponents of the political struggle, and ETA-M, the advocates of the military strife; still, the separation did not last beyond 1983, the year that the political wing disbanded. About 7 years thereafter, the organization initiated the process of reorganization. Although new in its shape, ETA went on going the path of terror. The killings and detainment of ETA leaders have changed its structure (Atkins 2004, p.88).
An Executive Committee composed of three to five members directs group operations. Asier Oyarzabal Chaparteque, Mikel Albisu Iriate, and Jose Luis Arrieta Zubemendi were individuals known to be Executive Committee members around 2001. Political, military, and logistical parts form the structure of ETA, each subdivided down to the cell level. Compartmentalization makes sure there is secrecy, that is to say, the members of every cell remain incognizant of the activities of other divisions (Atkins 2004, p.88). Terrorist group profiles (1989, p.36) stated that a few factions with a loose connection and separate identities formed the sophisticated structure of ETA. The better part of members known as commandos are the parts of these three or four-member groups. The majority of members are legal. Put otherwise, they live normal, legal lives, with law enforcers unaware of their membership, which leaves them above suspicion. Shortly after executing their assigned missions, they leave unnoticed back to their normal surroundings. Members known to the officials and operating underground make up the minority. ETA also has a group responsible for communication, information, and support required for infrastructure maintenance.
These days, little is known about current leaders of ETA, if not less, let alone the details of their biography except that Spain, according to Lohmuller (2015), suspects that two supposed group leaders are in a hideout in Venezuela. Worse, they receive paychecks from state establishments. El Confidencial (2015) revealed Xabier Arruti Imaz was a suspected leader of the Spanish Basque ETA group who is claimed to receive a salary from Gas Communal SA estimated at 1.860 dollars per month in spite of him not having any experience in what his employer does. He has also stood proxy to PSUV, the socialist party of Venezuela. He did the representing in the northwest state of Falcon. Another alleged leader of the Fatherland and Liberty extremist group is Jose Arturo Cubillas Fontan. Sources describe him as having left for Venezuela in attempts to seek refuge in the 1980s. Also on a payroll of a Venezuelan company, Fontan is high on the most wanted list of Spain. The ETA leader earns 1.025 dollars on a monthly basis. He has acted as a link between the Basque extremist group and a guerilla group called the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (cited in Lohmuller 2015).
Strategy and Typical Tactics and Targets
Any organization, a terrorist group included, has a strategy or a plan of actions developed to achieve principal objectives and tactical approaches or methods applied to achieve these objectives. Atkins (2004, p.88) made an important remark that political action was the quintessence of ETA’ activities. When the once political group adopted terrorism as the instrument of their campaign was in 1965. Iniciativas Internationales ES (n.d.) suggested that ETA had embraced the theory of armed struggle and the guerilla war in lieu of an open confrontation. According to De la Calle and Sánchez-Cuenca (2004), the terrorist group made use of violence in order to render the authorities unwilling to take measures against them in the Basque Country (cited in Martín-Peña and Varela-Rey 2014, p.511). Within this Country, the organization developed a violence strategy that consists of two levels. On the first level, the tasks of cells is to liquidate individuals by means of target killing with weapons and bomb attacks. According to Atkins (2004, p.88), ETA committed their first assassination in 1968 thereby adopting the tactics. On the second level, the cells are to resort to the violence of low intensity (Martín-Peña and Varela-Rey 2014, p.512). De la Calle (2007) suggested that the youth wing of the organization was to unleash the violence of this intensity during planned and organized attacks (cited in Martín-Peña and Varela-Rey 2014, p.512). What they engage in is kale borroka, street violence, or fighting, which they commit in both Navarra and the Basque Country as a token of the support of ETA (Martín-Peña and Varela-Rey 2014, p.512).
European Police Office (2013) and Van den Broek (2004) suggested that ETA’s members were used to targeting law enforcement agencies, government, the buildings of political parties, public transport systems, and bank offices (cited in Martín-Peña and Varela-Rey 2014, p.512). Funds were the reason ETA started targeting banks (Atkins, 2004, p.88). To secure funds, the group also engages in armed robberies, kidnappings, and the extortion of revolutionary taxes. ETA is no stranger to targeting tourist resorts while conducting seasonal campaigns (Terrorist group profiles 1989, p.36). This violent conduct usually embraced the acts of aggression, extortion, sabotage, intimidation, and threats. Martin-Peña (2010) differentiated between psychological violence in the shape of humiliation, intimidation, and death threats and physical violence in the form of bomb attacks, murders, and arsons. De la Calle and Sánchez-Cuenca (2004) noted that the mid-1990s were marked by the shift in the target selection (cited in Martín-Peña and Varela-Rey 2014, p.512). What the group was planning was to widen the impact of attacks by conducting attacks against officials, state representatives, and non-nationalist politicians. Overall, the opposing political ideology of victims, profession, and criticism of the group were the major reasons for ETA to target its victims (Martín-Peña and Varela-Rey 2014, p.512).
Main Attacks Carried out by the Group
According to Atkins (2004, p.88), in the August of 1968, the ETA assassinated political police chief Meliton Manzanas, which happened in Guipuzcosin. The group liquidated the prime minister of Spain, Admiral Carrero Blanco who was believed a political heir to Franco on December 20, 1973, through a command-detonated bomb in a move that made ETA talked about. Another high-profile assassination attempt was against Jose Maria Aznar who went on to serve two full tenures as the prime minister of Spain. Terrorist group profiles (1989, p.37) stated that the terrorists had embarked on a tourist war between June and July of 1979 inflicting great material damage on resorts and traumatizing two individuals in a series of 14 time bombs. In the November of 1979, organization members kidnapped an MP in Madrid releasing the victim in exchange for the promise of reviewing and facilitating torture allegations and the criminal cases against Basque prisoners.
The Basque extremists launched an antitank rocket at the residence of prime minister in February 1980, yet it never reached its intended target. The group kidnapped one of the richest men in the country in the January of 1981 holding him hostage for nearly two months prior to having a ransom demand of 3.29 million dollars satisfied. The gunfire and grenade attack of 1986 cost the life of Vice Admiral Cristobol Colon along with his driver (Terrorist group profiles 1989, p.37). Cutler (2011) the attempt was made by ETA leader Ibon Gogeascoechea of killing the King of Spain Juan Carlos in 1997. These are only a few examples of attacks conducted by the group generally preferring explosions, armed killings, and kidnappings.
The Impact of the Group
In the mid-1990s, the group embraced a more ambitious strategy victimizing a wider set of targets, which has a tremendous effect on the public opinion that used to consider ETA’s attacks conducted against security forces (Martín-Peña and Varela-Rey 2014, p.512). In the years between 1968 and 1989, the extremists killed a total of 500 people (Terrorist group profiles 1989, p.36). By 2001, extremists’ attacks had claimed the lives of 811 people and left upwards of 2.000 individuals wounded. Of these, there were an estimated 1.358 wounded and 360 killed politicians, judges, and journalists. Next stood the security forces of the government, with 541 individuals wounded and another 356 killed. The army ranked third in terms of casualties and injuries inflicted by the group that wounded 101 individuals and killed 95 military men of different ranks. Terrorist Group Profiles (1989, p.37) suggested that, between 1973 and 1987, the group did various damage, including overwhelming detriment to the property and significant death toll, when a planted explosive set off in front of a Spanish Civil Guard apartment complex killed 40 and traumatized an extra 11 individuals.
The Future of the Group
Cutler (2011) reported about crackdown measures taken by the Spanish government that has presumably put together death squads known as GAL or Anti-Terrorist Liberation Groups to wage a clandestine war against the Basque extremists. From 1983 to 1987, the squads liquidated 28 ETA members, yet the exposure of the GAL led to top officials being compromised. Hundreds of members had been arrested by 2011, which may have weakened the group, as believed the government. The leadership was dealt a heavy blow following the detainment of ETA leader Ibon Gogeascoechea alongside with two other top group members in Northern France. BBC (2011) suggested that Javier Lopez Pena, the political commander of ETA and Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina, the alleged military head of the group were arrested in a rather short succession sometime in June and November 2008.
Spanish and French law enforcers have made efforts to diminish the capability of the Basque extremists while the judiciary declared the political branch of the movement outlawed. The idea was for the move to cut the flow of cash and keep the movement from receiving political presence. The May of 2009 saw the exclusion of radical separatist parties from Basque elections. Furthermore, the authorities are squashing the support of the group. What is also notable is that the nationalists did not manage to secure the majority and a non-nationalist government of Socialist Patxi Lopez has formed the cabinet for the first time in 30 years. Still, the organization has logistical networks left operating in France as well as a pool of young members in Spain and France coming out at about 200 individuals who are reported ready to engage in lethal operations (BBC, 2011). Leadership losses, the cutting of funding channels, pressure put on supporters, and the monopoly forfeiture in the local government may well be a signs the extremist group is about to become history.
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