Violence from Madrid could spark TERROR resurgence in Basque country, expert warns

Leading expert in terrorism and security Dr Evan Jean Lawrence thinks the next moves Spain makes are crucial in preventing a return to the violence of the past in the Basque region.

Dr Lawrence, who is also a lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, says Madrid needs to learn from their mistakes and realise a “one size fits all” policy doesn’t work.

She said: “If Spain goes in strong and tries to take control of everything, like with in Catalonia, you very well could see ETA poking it head back up to see what’s going on.

“The Basque region has a long history of having a separatist movement and, unfortunately, a terrorist group. 

“Spain handles conflict really badly, so we’re all just waiting with bated breath to see whether the terrorist movement has a resurgence.”

The region, like Catalonia, has its own distinct language and culture from the rest of Spain and many believe they should be their own independent country. 

Between 1968 and 2010 ETA, ‘Euskadi Ta Askatasuna’ meaning Basque Homeland and Liberty, killed more than 820 and injured thousands in their armed struggled for independence from Spain.

The group declared a “definitive” ceasefire in September 2010, and in April 2017 the group announced it had given up all its arms and had officially disarmed.

Despite the ceasefire, pro ETA graffiti continues to pop up in towns and cities across the Basque region.

The government is now working with Basque separatists to loosen extra measures imposed on the region during the peak of the conflict.

But Dr Lawrence says it could be “too little, too late”.

She said: “Spanish politicians have tried to deny there was a particular ‘Basque problem’, instead saying they had a terrorist organisation.

“Violence is their first port of call to deal with conflict, and its not the best way to go about things.

“They oppressed the Basque people for years, and the oppression was legitimised by the Spanish government.”

The Guardia Civil, the Spanish national police, ruled with an iron fist during the Franco regime, helping the dictator suppress the Basque culture and language. 

They are often violent towards people, leaving them distrustful and suspicious, and instead they put their trust in the Ertzaintza, the Basque regional police.

This has been echoed on the streets of Catalonia as the Guardia Civil reacted brutally during protests, with people looking to the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan national police, for help. 

Dr Lawrence added: “A fairly significant portion of the population in the Basque region don’t view the national police as legitimate and see them as ‘occupiers’. 

“And this mentality isn’t from young radicals, its from older people who lived through the Franco brutality.”

And a violent reaction from an ‘illegitimate’ police force in the face of sedition, is just going to make the problem worse.

She continued: “The Guardia Civil are Madrid’s “brute enforcers”, and this has created a real distain for authority. The people are going to push back against them.

“I think that things are very well placed for violence to spark up again, but whether it will take hold or not, I don’t know.”