Political violence

September 10, 2004 ,

TOMORROW is the third anniversary of September 11th attacks in the USA.
It is also exactly six months since the train bombings in Madrid.

I went there this week with a group of MPs to meet with Spanish colleagues in the new Socialist Government.

The new Prime Minister Jose Zapatero was unexpectedly elected just days after the bombings. Wrongly some saw this as a victory for the terrorists.

In fact the previous Government, strong supporters of the Iraq War, had tried to pin the blame on ETA, the Basque terrorist group, and suppressed evidence that the terrorists were Islamic extremists.
The public saw through this ruse, and threw them out of office.

But ETA is still a real threat having killed 850 people since 1968, in an effort to obtain an independent Basque State.

In Madrid I met 2 young socialist politicians from the Basque region.
Yolanda Gonzalez was elected to the Spanish Senate last March.
She told me that she could not go out to a pub in her own constituency for fear of an assassination attempt by ETA, some of whose members were at school with her.

I also met Eduardo Medina Munoz.
He is an articulate 28 year old Basque MP, who was targeted by ETA in a car bomb attack in 2002.
As a result he lost a leg, and now has an artificial limb.

In many ways the Basque country is like Wales.
It has a population of about 3 million people, about one third of whom can speak the Basque language.

Unfortunately unlike us, its politics is riddled with violence.

In a week when we have seen unspeakable horror in North Ossetia, bombs in Indonesia and more deaths in the Middle East, we should wish the new Spanish government well in their effort to end Basque terrorism.