By Lisa Tilley
AT one minute after 9am on Saturday December 30, a 200 kilo bomb razed a five story car-park to the ground at Terminal 4 of Madrid Barajas airport. The car-bomb was planted by Basque separatist group, Eta. The explosion brought to a close 2006, the year of optimism, along with the “permanent” ceasefire announced by Eta in March.
Among the cinders and charred metal the bodies of two Ecuadorian migrants were found: Diego Armando Estacio and Carlos Alonso Palate whose lives were ended by the blast. It is thought the two men were sleeping in a car when the explosion occurred after warnings from Eta and an evacuation effort on the part of the Spanish police.
Rewind just a few hours earlier and Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero delivered his end of year address to the nation. In it he spoke of optimism for the peace process with the terrorist group. “In one year we will be better than today” claimed Señor Zapatero on Friday, oblivious that in just one day things would be much worse.
The evidence was apparent; Eta was accused of the theft of 350 guns in the autumn and, one week before the blast, Spanish police uncovered an arsenal of the terrorists’ weapons. Aside from indications of the group rearming, negotiations in the peace process had reached a stale-mate, so Señor Zapatero’s blind optimism remains inexplicable.
However, despite the warning signs, the Prime Minister was not the only one to be surprised by the bombing.
Reports suggest neither Batasuna (the banned political group which legitimises Eta violence) nor most of the convicted Eta members in Spanish prisons knew about the planned attack. Many were left second guessing the group’s motive and provocation. Arnaldo Otegi, leader of Batasuna, blamed the disintegration of peace talks with the Government, claiming the Prime Minister had not conceded “one gesture” from Eta’s list of demands. Otegi believes moves such as the return of jailed Eta members to Basque prisons, rather than leaving them dispersed through Spanish jails, would not be unreasonable.
Spanish public opinion would beg to differ; there has been outrage across Spain at the prospect of the Prime Minister negotiating with terrorists. When talks were announced, thousands of people attended rallies organised by the Association for the Victims of Terrorism, to plead for the government to not surrender to the Basque separatist group. The talks, approved by the Spanish Parliament, hinged on one condition: that Eta renounces all violence.
Evidently the bomb on Saturday has shattered that condition: “Eta’s will to talk has been buried under the rubble at Barajas,” explained socialist party spokesman, José Blanco. Spain’s Interior Minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba reiterated this sentiment by stating the peace process is “broken, liquidated and finished off.” Zapatero, on the other hand appeared less convinced, he declared the “suspension” of discussions with Eta rather than an abrupt end to dialogue.
It is thought the Prime Minister was hoping for positive action from Batasuna, but the banned party has failed to condemn the explosions and denounce violence for political ends. With the parliament’s stringent condition broken and a lack of concession from Batasuna, Zapatero’s hopes of resurrecting peace talks are over. The Government has announced its strategy for peace will now involve crisis talks amongst Spain’s main political parties.