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Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) (Spain, separatists, Euskadi ta Askatasuna) Updated: November 17, 2008 ETA, one of Western Europe's last terrorist groups, is rumored to be weakening as a split forms between those who call for violent resistance and those who advocate negotiation. The November 2008 arrest of the group's alleged military leader, Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina, may help swing the group away from violent tactics. Spain has historically resisted ETA and the idea of an independent Basque homeland. In November 2008, left-leaning political party Eusko Alkartasuna (EA), which had previously belonged to a coalition affiliated with ETA, announced it will run in regional elections in March 2009. This, experts say, could restart the integration of the group into the political process. ETA's violent past, however, keeps it designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, and United Nations. ETA, which is pronounced "etta," is a leftist group that conducts terrorist attacks to win independence for a Basque state in northern Spain and southwestern France. ETA stands for Euskadi ta Askatasuna, which means “Basque Fatherland and Liberty” in the Basque language. When the group formed in 1959, its founders focused on Gen. Francisco Franco's suppression of the Basque language and culture. More moderate Basque nationalist organizations, including the Basque Nationalist Party, the Partido Nacionalista Vasco, were denounced as collaborators by ETA, which evolved by the 1960s into a revolutionary Marxist group. In 2003, the Spanish Supreme Court banned the Batasuna political party, which was considered the political arm of ETA, and successive efforts by Spanish governments to negotiate with ETA have failed. The Basques are a culturally distinct Christian group that straddles the mountainous region between modern-day Spain and France. According to a census from 2001, there are between 2 million and 3 million people living in Spain's Basque regions. The Basques have never had their own independent state, but have enjoyed varying degrees of autonomy over the centuries under Spanish and French rule. About half of the residents of the three Spanish Basque provinces—Vizcaya, Guipuzco, and Alava—speak fluent Basque or understand some of the language. Basque nationalists include other areas with smaller Basque-speaking minorities—including the Spanish province of Navarre and the French departments of Labourd, Basse-Navarra, and Soule—in their vision of a Basque homeland. Many of ETA's victims are government officials. The group's first known victim was a police chief who was killed in 1968. In 1973, ETA operatives killed Franco’s apparent successor, Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, by planting an underground bomb below his habitual parking spot outside a Madrid church. In 1995, an ETA car bomb almost killed Jose Maria Aznar, then the leader of the conservative Popular Party, who later served as Spain’s prime minister. The same year, investigators disrupted a plot to assassinate King Juan Carlos. More recently, in March 2008, ETA killed a former city councilman in northern Spain two days before an election. The Spanish government estimates that ETA has killed over 800 people and carried out over 1,600 terrorist attacks. Some of ETA's victims are civilians, though the group usually phones in warning of their attacks before the attacks occur. ETA has consistently targeted Spain's tourist attractions, most recently by bombing buses along Spain's tourist-packed Costa del Sol. According to a report from the newspaper El País, attacks by ETA cost the Spanish government nearly $11 billion from 1994 to 2003.
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