Wednesday, April 8, 2009

French Police Find Bomb Materials, ETA Suspected

After a quiet end to the month of March the terrorist group ETA starts off April with a bang. French police found a huge amount of explosives in the south-eastern city of Grenoble, France that is suspected to belong to ETA.

A total of 660 pounds ammonium nitrate and powdered aluminium were found by the owner of the garage in the French city far away from ETA activity. These materials can be used to make deadly bombs and a large number of them with 660 pounds.

The owner broke open the lock of the garage because he had not received rent in three months. "I found some bags, I opened one of them which contained white powder and straight away I informed the police," he told the AFP news agency.

This just comes one week after a Basque woman was sentenced to 15 years in a Paris court for running a French-based cell that identified targets for ETA, according to a BBC article.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

44 Basque Nationalists Facing Charges

Since the March 1st Basque regional elections ETA, the Basque separatist group fighting for Basque freedom, has not been in the headlines. But they made the headlines in a Reuter’s article written two days ago. Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón is charging 44 suspected members of the terrorist group. They are said to have been plotting in the interests of ETA through its three banned political parties Batasuna, the Communist Party of the Basque Country (PCTV) and the Basque Nationalist Action (ANV).

ETA’s membership runs very deep in the Basque Country as included in these arrests were mayors in the Basque town of Mondragon. The men arrested from Mondragon were Maria Inocencia Galparsoro, Pernando Barrena and Joseba Permach.

All of these 44 men will not go to jail but a good amount of them will, delivering a huge blow to the Separatist group fighting for secession from Spain.

On another note, the Spanish government has recently moved several dozen convicted ETA members to jails closer to the Basque region. These men have become dissidents within ETA helping the Spanish government and allowing there family members to visit on an easier basis because of their conduct. Some of the men being moved include one time military leader Santiago Arrospide alias Santi Potros, who was sentenced to 3,000 years after killing 21 people in Barcelona in 1987. Potros and some other members were moved to a facility near Zaragoza putting them much closer to the Basque region.

The terrorist group is responsible for killing more than 800 people in the last 50 years. Now they have to deal with these two huge blows that could possibly have major effects on the fight for freedom. Major members will soon be going to jail and help from incarcerated ex-members is helping Spain defeat the Separatist group. Since the banning of the three left-wing parties the Spanish government has taken huge steps in taking down ETA. With so many members possibly going to jail it will be interesting to see the next move they will make. Vamos a ver.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tenga Cuidado Con Las Palabras

Attempts to extradite José Ignacio de Juana Chaos from Northern Ireland are slowly becoming more realistic. He is wanted by the Spanish government for exhorting terrorism in the name of ETA. Chaos was originally jailed for the involvement in 25 murders during the 1980’s.

It hasn’t taken long for Chaos to make his way back in to European headlines after being released from jail last August. According to a BBC article, the ETA member will be charged for his words rather than his actions this time. Messages by Chaos were read out loud at a rally last August in San Sebastian saying, “aurrrea bolie” or kick the ball forward, could be the reason for his jailing. His lawyers were told that Chaos would be sent back to Spain unless they can do something to overcome a legal bar to have the extradition delayed. His lawyers are also fighting these charges by claiming the law is not the same in the UK under the Terrorism Act.

Judge Tom Brugess had this to say, “Taking into account the matters and decisions on the meanings that may be attributed to terms in the letter, the context of the meeting and the context of the Eta campaign, I have decided that given the meanings attributed to the statements such words could properly fall to be considered as an offence under Section 1 of the 2006 Act.” He then added, “Therefore the alleged offence is an extraditable offence for the purposes of the 2003 Act.”

An attempt for Chaos’ lawyers to stop the extradition will take place in May during a two day hearing. If convicted Chaos could face a a two-year jail sentence for his words supporting the fight for secession from Spain and the terrorist attacks that come with it.

Monday, March 9, 2009

France and Ireland Help To Fight ETA

In the past week the Basque Separatist group ETA has seen some very important members fall to foreign authorities. Last friday Spain was given Ignacio Pedro Santesteban Goikoetxea, also known as Einstein, after France extradited him. Goikoetxea had already been arrested and sentenced in a french court but will most likely face more serious charges in Spain. According to the ineterior ministry he is wanted for "terrorism and the trafficking of arms, explosives and vehicles."

According to an article in the Calgary Herald Spanish forces arrested a man and a woman on thursday in the Basque town of Hernani. Iraitz Santa Cruz Ugade and Isaro Aroarte are suspects in the killing of Ignacio Uria Mendizabal, a Basque businessman who was working on the high speed train that is currently being worked on in the Basque Country and is opposed by ETA.

Another ETA member living abroad might soon be facing the same future as his fellow member. José Ingacio de Juana Chaos is currently living in Belfast, Ireland after fleeing from Spain upon getting released from jail. He had served a jail sentence of 20 years in Madrid for murder and is well known for his attempt at a hunger strike when he received more years on his sentence. Chaos is wanted by Spain for "exalting terrorism" and trying to help ETA in gaining independence. Thomas Burgess of Ireland will decide today whether or not Chaos will stay or go back to Spain where he will have return to jail. Burgess's decision will be made today but the whole process could take some time and I am sure Chaos' lawyers will try and prolong the process as much as they can.

With the help of these other nations the fight against ETA is starting to favor the Spanish government. This could be a very big blow to ETA but with more arrests there is a good possibility of another attack by ETA.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Atletico Bilbao to Face Barcelona in Copa del Rey Final

After being behind 2-1 to Seville on aggregate soccer club Atletico Bilbao (who are the major club in the Basque Country) won 3-0 last night. This win puts them up 4-2 on the aggregate and now into the final where the will meet Barcelona. Barcelona has the most Copa del Rey wins in the history of Spanish Football with 24 but Bilbao is actually second with only one less win than Barcelona with 23. The final will not be until May but that will just give this already intriguing matchup more time for the suspense to build. Bilbao is currently 10th in the La Liga table with Barcelona on top but having struggled in it's last 3 league games.

Bilbao winning and moving into the final is a bright spot for some Basques. With recent elections seeing Basque Nationalists lose power and making it harder for ETA and its followers to gain freedom there hasn't been much good news for them. Imagine if the final were to be Madrid vs. Bilbao. With tensions between Madrid and the Basque Country being extremly high a Madrid Bilbao final would be a game with much more than just soccer on the line.

Atletico Bilbao is a very unique team in that it only signs players that are natives of the Basque Country. This is incredible because Bilbao is a very competitive team in La Liga and yet they only recruit players from their small Basque region. This also shows how much pride Basques have and also a tribute to the Basque footballers that they can play as well as they do with only Basque natives.

When I was in Spain last year a Basque Socialist, Isaías Carrasco, was shot and killed right before presidential elections. I then saw on television a moment of silence dedicated to Carrasco at the Atletico Bilbao that weekend. During this moment of silence ETA members and supporters cheered as loud as they could which is something I could not believe. This was when I realized just how serious ETA and its supporters are. Vamos Bilbao!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Polls In..., Now What?

After weeks of waiting the Basque regional election has finally come and gone. With the elections came a couple of bomb scares but nothing to bad. Before polls even opened a 24 year-old suspected member of ETA who was believed to have been planning an attack was arrested. The alleged member had “bomb making equipment” in his apartment in Hernani, Spain, according to a BBC news correspondent. This comes after ETA on Friday told its supporters to vote blank on the ballets to make a statement without causing any injuries to anyone, claming these elections are “anti-democratic.”

With the recession hitting Spain the hardest out of all the European countries with an unemployment rate of 14% these elections seem even more important for Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) won the election gaining 30 seats of the possible 75 but this means current Basque Government President , José Ibarretxe, is not guaranteed re-election since the majority of the seats are not the Nationalist’s Party. This could possibly mean a change of leader in the Basque region making it harder for secession.

Pre-election polls predicted that the majority of the Basque region was leaning towards Zapatero and his Socailist Party. But after seeing the results it seems that Basques could start becoming more supportive to the Nationalist Party and to becoming it’s own nation. The Basque region has always been one of the more profitable regions in Spain and with unemployment rates so high and no signs of getting better this could be another reason to secced. In a BBC article,
BBC,Miren Azkarate , a Basque Nationalist spokeswoman, said, “What kind of unemployment do people prefer, 8%, as we have here, or 14%, as they have in Madrid?”

So with elections ending in a mixed result for both Zapatero and ETA what happens now? Will these elections really be that important in the uniting or seceding of the Basque Country? We will see what both parties reactions will be soon enough, and as for the elections only time will tell.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

ETA Goes After Zapatero

A week after a bomb exploded in northern Madrid, ETA strikes again, this time in its own region. Another bomb exploded in front of Prime Minister Luis Zapatero’s Socialist Headquarters in the town of Lazkao on early Monday morning. No one was injured by the blast but severe damage to the building was the result of the bomb. The objective of the attack is to scare off Socialists and their idea of uniting the Basque Country with the rest of Spain. The Basque Socialist Party is gaining more and more popularity in the region and could possibly remove the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) from parliament. Zapatero was recently in the region promoting the Socialist Party before elections on March 1st. ETA does not want either party to win and is still showing their anger about the banning of the two parties closest to ETA, Askatasuna and D3M.

These attacks will continue to happen within the next few weeks up until the elections. These attacks have not injured nor killed anyone but with future attacks very possible you have to think just how many more attacks until some is killed. Luckily these bombs have been aimed more at making political statements protesting Zapatero and his Socialist Party. But with having killed more that 825 people over the past 50 years ETA will most likely strengthen these attacks and threaten the lives of fellow Spaniards. With each new day comes a possible new attack from ETA and the possibility of killing innocent compatriots.

On a much lighter note, Congratulations to Penélope Cruz on winning her first Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in the film Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Not only was it her first Acadamy Award but it was also the first time a Spanish actress won the award. The always beautiful Ms. Cruz was both surprised and grateful for the award but was well deserving of best supporting actress. This comes one year after her boyfried Javier Bardem won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in No Country For Old Men. Felicidades Penélope.

Photo Emilio Flores for The New York Times; The Weinstein Company