TCS Daily

Spain's Government-Sponsored Terrorism

By Jose Maria Marco - October 11, 2005 12:00 AM

MADRID -- Ermua is a small town in the Basque Country. Miguel Ángel Blanco was a young town councilor representing the Partido Popular. In July 1997 he was kidnapped and, three days later, murdered by the terrorist group ETA. The spectacular cruelty of the murder of Miguel Ángel Blanco led to a strong popular movement against terrorism. This movement brought together individuals from all political parties, including many Basque nationalists who had been rather reticent up until that time. The movement later lost support, because the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) failed to back it and because the Spanish Socialist Party also ended up leaving the pact devoted to the battle against terrorism. The Foro Ermua was founded in memory of that time, an organization that has fought bravely to combat nationalist terrorism within the Basque Country itself.

The President of the Foro Ermua is Mikel Buesa, a professor in economics at the Complutense University in Madrid. Recently Buesa announced that he had compiled a series of figures that will shortly be published in the organization's magazine, Foro de Ermua. He analyzes the money received by an organization known as Batasuna between 1993 and 2002. Batasuna was ETA's political wing, which, after being tolerated for many years, was finally made illegal in 2002, thanks to a pact between the two leading nationwide parties in Spain, the Partido Popular and the Socialist Party.

According to Buesa, between 1993 and the year 2002, ETA-Batasuna earned money (46.4 percent of the total amount at its disposal throughout this period) from the following sources: blackmailing businessmen, various mercantile activities, plundering explosive depots and various drug-trafficking and arms-dealing activities, not to mention services provided to other terrorist organizations.

However, Batasuna also had access to the public funds that official institutions distribute among the political parties. There is no doubt that some of this funding served to finance ETA's activities and nationalist terrorism, precisely because Batasuna formed a part of these institutions. Mikel Buesa has calculated that, between 1993 and 2002, Batasuna -- or ETA-Batasuna, we should say -- received some €12.8 million each year from Spanish and European institutions. Of this amount, 83 percent corresponded to subsidies granted by the Basque regional government (one third), municipalities, the regional parliament and public companies controlled by the Basque government.

The Spanish state parliament furnished a very small 0.3 percent of the €12.8 million a year granted to Batasuna, although the European Parliament, where Batasuna was represented, handed over 17 percent of these funds. From this we can conclude that half of the money that was used over a period of ten years to murder, kidnap, blackmail and terrorize the Spanish population actually came from the pockets of Basque, Spanish and European taxpayers.

Today Batasuna remains illegal, although it has been replaced by the Partido Comunista de las Tierras Vascas (Communist Party of the Basque Regions). ETA is weaker than it was, but continues to have the capacity to commit terrorist atrocities, extortion and murder. The Socialist government, for its part, has broken the Anti-Terrorist Pact by permitting the legalization of the Communist Party of the Basque Regions. At the same time, a process has now been undertaken to negotiate the Basque Statute of Autonomy (similar to the constitutions governing the US States), which will entirely transform the Spanish national Constitution.

Public money has served to finance terrorism and undermine the Spanish government. This is one of the most paradoxical results of the enormous size our governments have acquired. It also shows that, without government help, terrorism is more fragile than we very often suppose.


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