Victims of ETA and associated groups 1968-2010 SPAIN: BASQUE: PREPARATIONS FOR ELECTIONS 2 days ago   00:30

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Videographic location of ETA victims, 1968-2010. Josu Ternera, one of the most influential leaders of former Basque separatist group ETA, was arrested in France on Thursday after more than 16 years on the run, Spain's interior ministry said.VIDEOGRAPHICS

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SPAIN: BASQUE: PREPARATIONS FOR ELECTIONS Victims of ETA and associated groups 1968-2010 2 days ago   03:22

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Voters in this Basque region of northern Spain are preparing for elections that could hold the key to future peace talks.

Sunday's regional parliamentary elections come five weeks after the armed separatist group ETA declared a ceasefire.

During a 30-year attempt to bomb its way to independence from Spain ETA killed at least 760 people.

In September it raised hopes of an end to the bloodshed by declaring an open ended truce.

ETA has called three ceasefires before and broken all of them.

Despite ETA's bloody methods its political wing enjoys moderate support.

At the last general elections two years ago, Herri Batasuna, which recently changed its name to Euskal Herritarok, received 155-thousand votes.

Its leaders demand more freedom for Basques to run their own affairs.

SOUNDBITE: (Spanish)
Well, as a secret armed organisation I can't imagine ETA calling an assembly on Tele-5 (national TV station) so I have absolutely no (inaudible) What we would like very much would be if the Socialist Party and the Popular Party would finally have an assembly where they recognise definitively . . . take a democratic test, recognise definitively that the Spanish state is a pluri-national state and that we Basques have the right to decide our future in a free and democratic way, recognising our right to self-determination.
SUPER CAPTION: Arnaldo Otegi, Herri Batasuna candidate for Basque parliament

Supporters of Euskal Herritarok portray the Spanish state as oppressive.

SOUNDBITE: (Spanish)
ETA's violence is in the past. The state's violence is not in the past.
SUPER CAPTION: Joni Bengkoitxa, Basque voter

Spain's Popular Party is hoping to lure voters away from the fiercely nationalistic Euskal Herritarok.

But not all voters have responded to their promises of safeguarding Basque autonomy within the framework of the Spanish state.

The Popular Party candidate for the Basque presidency says as long as ETA maintains its truce, Basques have nothing to fear.

SOUNDBITE: (Spanish)
The only thing we need fear is the sound of pistols, bombs, what ETA has been doing for such a long time. What the Basque people can say is there's no need ever to be afraid.
SUPER CAPTION: Carlos Iturgaiz, Popular Party leader in Basque region

The latest polls suggest the mainstream Basque Nationalist Party will win the most seats in the regional legislature but fall short of a majority, just as it did in the last election.

Jose Antonio Ibarrexe is likely to become Basque president - but only with the support of one of the smaller parties.

SOUNDBITE: (Spanish)
It's not enough to want peace. You have to work at it, you have to administer it, you have to believe in it. Only when one believes that there is a way ahead can one seek it out. And both I and the party are absolutely certain that we stand before an historic opportunity to achieve peace.
SUPER CAPTION: Jose Antonio Ibarrexe, PNV candidate for Basque presidency

Sociologist Jose Antonio Varela says it's almost impossible to know what's going on behind the scenes.

SOUNDBITE: (Spanish)
Well, I think that the fact that the declaration of ceasefire was made on the eve of elections has tied the hands of all the political parties and no one can speak with all clearness. I think we'll have to wait until the elections are over and then watch how each one moves. Nevertheless it is quite possible that there are already very discreet conversations taking place behind the scenes that the public doesn't know about.
SUPER CAPTION: Jose Antonio Varela, sociologist

ETA hopes the ceasefire will translate into more support for its political wing and other political groups that favour Basque independence.



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