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No brokered agreements and no concessions, say victims' groups

"We are not objective," says a nephew of murdered former health minister

Family members of ETA victims appeared divided on Friday on how to participate — if at all — in the next stage of the peace and ceasefire negotiations with the Basque terrorist group.

Some victims associations say they do not want any ETA member to be granted immunity or concessions. Others do not believe that Thursday's ceasefire announcement will lead to the end of the Basque terrorist group. And some family members of murdered victims have publicly come out and asked the associations not to get involved in the upcoming peace process because "we are not objective."

Members of the Association of the Victims of Terrorism (AVT), which is the largest and most vocal group of all of the organizations, said they do not want a negotiated peace settlement.

"We would have like to have seen ETA announce that it has disbanded, turn over its weapons and arms, and agree to cooperate with the judicial system," said Ángeles Pedraza, AVT president. "We as victims have been too generous; we don't want vengeance, just justice."

Jorge Mota, spokesman for the Basque Country Victims of Terrorism Collective (Covite), says he believes that Thursday's announcement was part of a deal hammered out between ETA and the Socialist government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

"They are taking little steps at a time because that is the way they hammered out the deal. This was well thought out so that it could give the government a breath of fresh air ahead of the November 20 elections," he said.

Some terrorist victims, such as Mari Mar Blanco, whose brother Miguel Ángel Blanco, a popular councilman from Ermua, who was kidnapped and killed by ETA in July 1997, are against any type of negotiations.

Blanco, a Popular Party (PP) member of the Basque regional parliament, said that she was against moving the estimated 700 ETA prisoners to regional jails so that they can be closer to their families — a petition that the radical abertzale left and ETA have both made.

"Victims of terrorism can be perfectly assured that the next government — and I am convinced that it is going to be the PP — is going to dictate anti-terrorism policy as it always has acted, with firmness, strength and respect in keeping alive the memory of the victims," she said.

Meanwhile, family members of former Socialist health minister Ernest Lluch, who was shot in the head at his home by an ETA assassin in 2000, asked victims associations not to get involved in the upcoming peace process because it should be "left to people who are professional in resolving such issues."

"As victims, we are not objective. Our time will come when it comes to recognize the victims but we cannot get involved in the peace process," said Enric Lluch, the late minister's nephew, who serves as vice president for the Ernest Lluch Foundation in Barcelona.

The Association of Prosecutors issued a statement on Friday saying that ETA's declaration cannot "alter or place conditions on" the actions of judges and courts.

Some members of victims associations, such as Francisco José Alcaraz, the former AVT vice president, believe that the government must change the laws so that convicted ETA murderers face life in prison.

Cristina Cuesta, president of the Miguel Ángel Blanco Foundation, said that it was important that the courts, not ETA, determine what is to happen to its members once the organization disbands.

"The terrorist gang has been given too much of a protagonist role in all of this; its words don't mean anything anymore. They must hand themselves over to authorities now," she said.

Dignity and Justice, another victims group, does not believe that this is the last of ETA. "A statement doesn't mean anything — words are a hill of beans," said spokesman Daniel Portero. "You can't trust ETA — it must be destroyed."

Portero also said he is against allowing Bildu — the pro-independence coalition of left members — from being allowed to participate in the political process.

Bildu swept up offices across the Basque Country and Navarre in the regional and local elections held on May 22.