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Cablegate: Jailed Eta Leaders Call for End to Armed Struggle

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

041632Z Nov 04

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRID 004265

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

S/CT
DS/IP/EUR
DS/ICI/PII
DS/DSS/ITA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER PGOV SP
SUBJECT: JAILED ETA LEADERS CALL FOR END TO ARMED STRUGGLE


1. (U) Summary. Six jailed ETA members signed a letter
addressed to the ETA leadership calling for an end to the
armed struggle in favor of political action in cooperation
with leftist parties. The letter, which was evidently not
intended for public release but found its way to a regional
newspaper, was written by high-ranking ETA inmates several
months before the October arrest of two top ETA leaders in
France. The banned ETA front group "Batasuna" suggested the
letter did not represent the genuine views of jailed ETA
leaders and there are no indications that ETA or Batasuna
plan to renounce violence in response to the document. GOS
authorities and political parties pointed to the letter as an
indicator of ETA's weakness, but emphasized the need for
continued vigilance and further police action against ETA.
End Summary.

//THE LETTER//

2. (U) On 11/2, Spanish newspapers released excerpts of a
letter to the ETA leadership from six jailed ETA members
lamenting ETA's disarray and calling for an end to the armed
struggle. (See unofficial translation of key points in para
7). The authors state bluntly that "under the current
circumstances, the armed struggle is not working," in large
part because of the highly effective "repression" of ETA at
the hands of Spanish and French authorities. Rather than
maintain ETA's militancy, the inmates recommend replacing the
use of violence with political collaboration with leftist
political parties in the Basque Region in pursuit of
nationalist objectives.

3. (U) The letter, which was written in August and was
evidently not intended for public release, was signed by
Inaki Arakama Mendia (Makario), Francisco Mujika Garmendia
(Pakito), Inaki Bilbao Beaskoetxea, Carlos Almorza Arrieta,
Kepa Solana Arrondo, and Koldo Aparicio Benito. The highest
ranking signer is Garmendia, who formed part of the ETA
cupula until 1992, when he was arrested along with other key
ETA leaders in Bidart, France. Other signers were among the
second tier of ETA's leadership, including Arrieta, who
directed ETA's infamous "revolutionary tax" (i.e. -
extortion) for several years, and Mendia, who led ETA
operations in Madrid during its most active period in the
1980's and represented ETA in negotiations with the GOS in
Algiers in the late 1980s. Observers noted that the document
was written even before ETA leaders Mikel Albizu and Soledad
Iparragirre were arrested in France in early October, arrests
which themselves led to a further cascade of detentions of
ETA suspects in Spain.

//THE REACTION//

4. (U) The release of the letter to a small Navarra newspaper
(it is not clear who provided the copy) was apparently
intended to further demoralize ETA during one of the worst
periods in its history. Minister of the Interior Jose
Antonio Alonso, though downplaying the possibility of an
actual halt in ETA's terrorist activities, cited the letter
as evidence of ETA's weakness. The ruling Socialist Party
(PSOE) and the opposition Popular Party (PP) hailed the
letter as vindication of their decades-long efforts to
cripple the terrorist organization, though both parties
echoed Minister Alonso's cautious tone.

5. (U) Reactions were more varied in the Basque Region. The
PP spokesman in the Basque Parliament attacked the authors of
the letter for lacking "any moral reflection" and casting
their suggestion as merely a "strategic" decision. Basque
Minister of Justice Joseba Azkarraga called on ETA's
political front, the illegal Batasuna party, to heed the
letter and formally renounce the use of violence. Basque
Parliamentarian Arnaldo Otegi, who speaks for Batasuna though
not technically a representative of the banned organization,
decried the release of the letter and called on the media to
"visit ETA's leaders in prison and see what they really
think." Batasuna is expected to release its own plan for a
"solution to the conflict" within the next few weeks, a plan
that may reportedly include the offer of a negotiated truce,
but not a renunciation of the armed struggle. ETA concluded
a similar truce with Basque nationalist parties and the
radical left Izquierda Unida (IU) in September 1998, a move
roundly criticized by both the PSOE and PP as a concession to
terrorists. With respect to the ETA letter, IU leader Gaspar
Llamazares said the time had come for Batasuna to break its
ties with the "failing" ETA.

//COMMENT//

6. (SBU) The ETA letter is a clear indicator of significant
internal divisions within the leadership of ETA's
once-formidable terrorist apparatus. Regardless of whether
or not the signers expressed contrition for their past
violence, the fact that hardened leaders of the organization
recognized the failure of the armed struggle and the
inevitability of a political (vice military) resolution to
the Basque Region's status represents a moral victory for the
Spanish state. It is also indicative of the more complex
political climate for ETA within the Basque Region, in which
the ruling Partido Nacional Vasco (PNV) is siphoning away
nationalist support from the radicals by advocating ever
greater autonomy from the central government through legal
means. Despite these positive developments, PSOE and PP
caution is well warranted. ETA has proven remarkably
resilient in the past and several key leaders, including the
notorious Josu Ternera, remain at large.

//TRANSLATION OF KEY POINTS OF LETTER//

7. (U) The full text of the letter is not available, but we
have tranlated the key elements from the portions released by
the press:

- "In the history of ETA, we have never found ourselves in
such poor conditions... Under our current circumstances, the
armed struggle as we wage it today does not serve its
purpose."

- "You cannot base an armed struggle on the release of
communiques and by making threats which cannot be realized.
(An organization) cannot develop an armed struggle when it is
so vulnerable to repression."

- "The inability to wage an armed struggle and the
impossibility of accumulating sufficient force to create the
conditions for negotiations with the central government
requires us to reconsider the vanguard strategy we have
followed until now... The political left believes we have no
ability to wield decisive influence through the armed
struggle. (We) are totally vulnerable to repression and
without a capacity to react, and this is a reality that must
be discussed openly, with all the attendant consequences."


- "This is not a matter of fixing the car's rear view mirror
or replacing a flat tire. What's missing is the engine. If
we do not grab the bull by the horns, we may introduce a
degenerative dynamic that will affect our (ultimate)
political objectives...We must count on the institutional
struggle and the mass struggle."
ARGYROS

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