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Cable sobre la tregua de ETA

La Embajada de EEUU en Madrid valora la autorización parlamentaria de 2005 para negociar con ETA

ID: 32837
Date: 2005-05-18 12:23:00
Origin: 05MADRID1894
Source: Embassy Madrid
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Dunno: 05MADRID1859
Destination: This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

181223Z May 05

C O N F I D E N T I A L MADRID 001894


E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/17/2015
TAGS: PTER, PGOV, SP, Counterterrorism


Classified By: Political Counselor Kathy Fitzpatrick; reason 1.4 (b)

1. (U) President Zapatero won Parliamentary approval on May
17 for his plan to offer peace talks with Basque terrorist
group ETA if ETA agrees to abandon the armed struggle. The
initiative passed by a vote of 192 to 147, with all parties
except the Popular Party (PP) accepting Zapatero's proposal.
The vote authorizes "dialogue between the appropriate
authorities and those who renounce the use of violence."
Zapatero's plan differs little from efforts by previous
Spanish governments to negotiate an end to the Basque
conflict, but the exclusion of the main opposition party from
the accord and the shifting political landscape in the Basque
country (in PSOE's favor) made this vote a dramatic political
event. Zapatero's victory renders moot a long-standing
Socialist-PP accord to coordinate actions against ETA and
symbolically places the Socialist Party (PSOE) in alliance
with smaller leftist and nationalist parties in the fight
against ETA. Though Zapatero won by a wide margin, the 2000
PP-PSOE Terrorism Pact won much more support with 313 votes
in favor. The PP adamantly opposed any conciliatory gesture
towards ETA and warned that Zapatero's proposal would
strengthen ETA, which has been weakened by the recent arrest
of numerous key leaders. The PP pointed to the fact that the
vote took place just days after suspected ETA terrorists
bombed four industrial sites in the Basque region as a sign
of ETA's unwillingness to renounce violence (see reftel).
The Association of Victims of Terrorism (AVT), a support
group for victims of ETA violence, opposed the proposal and
plans a June 11 demonstration in Madrid to protest the vote


2. (C) Diego Iniguez, deputy chief of staff to Vice President
Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, met with polcouns on May
17 and shared his insights regarding the political context of
the vote. Iniguez made clear that political decisions
related to the proposal were taken at the highest levels
(President Zapatero, Vice President de la Vega, PSOE
Parliamentary spokesman Pedro Rubalcaba, and PSOE
Parliamentary leader Jose Blanco) and that planning was
tightly controlled by this inner circle. Iniguez, who had
partial responsibility for negotiating the support of other
parties for Zapatero's proposal, said that ETA's recent
decline in strength was the primary motivating factor for the
GOS in undertaking this iniative at this time. It forces ETA
to respond to a GOS overture from a position of weakness,
perhaps making its leadership more willing to negotiate than
at other points in ETA's history.

3. (C) Iniguez also ventured a political motivation for
Zapatero's proposal: further isolating the PP within the
Spanish political system and allowing the PSOE to consolidate
its control over the political center. That suggestion
seemed borne out by PSOE Spokesman Rubalcaba's post-vote
comment that the PP is "using the issue of terrorism to
attack the government... and has isolated itself from all
other political forces in Spain." Iniguez said that polls
indicated that a strong majority of Spanish citizens
supported talks to end the Basque conflict (obviously an
important factor in Zapatero's decision to push this issue
now). He acknowledged that Zapatero was assuming a
significant political risk given ETA's uncanny ability to
resuscitate itself. A new spate of serious ETA attacks could
give the PP political ammunition on a highly sensitive issue
for Spanish voters. Iniguez argued, however, that the March
11, 2004 Madrid train bombings significantly undermined the
value of murder and terrorism as a viable tool for ETA. For
now, Zapatero sees little risk and strong political advantage
in pursuing peace with ETA without the PP's backing.


4. (C) The vote on Zapatero's peace initiative took place
against the backdrop of a radically changed political
landscape in the Basque region. As late as mid April, the
Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) appeared poised to win an
absolute majority in the Basque Parliament and to impose its
plan to pursue a referendum on increased autonomy from
Madrid. Instead, the PNV lost seats to both the PSOE and to
a small Marxist-Leninist group (EHAK) backed by ETA political
front group Batasuna. As a result, the PNV has been unable
to form a government, nor even to place its favored candidate
as leader of the Basque Parliament. In this reduced state,
the PNV had little choice but to back Zapatero's call for
peace talks (on the PSOE's terms), further demonstrating that
the PSOE has firmly seized the initiative in the Basque
region, as well as at the national level.
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