ETA: the end, at last!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Yesterday ETA announced the “definitive end to its armed activities”.

I feel very strong emotions, a bittersweet sensation, because the joy of this moment and the perspectives it opens are tempered by the memory of so many years of terror and atrocities. Never again! Will they realize, will we all realize that violence should never be used to defend our points of view? Will we forever retain in our minds and our eyes the images of so many lives destroyed by those who believed that their aspirations could be achieved by killing the innocent?

After 43 years of terror and 897 deaths, the terrorist organization is abandoning violence due to duly exercised pressure from State under the rule of law. Unconditionally. Total defeat. Democracy has triumphed.

A bittersweet feeling, such as the one I experienced in Chapultepec at the end of the conflicts in El Salvador, or upon initiating peace talks in Guatemala, because the bitterness of so many deaths and bloodshed tempers the joy one feels when the violence and threats cease. And all of the victims prompt a colossal question: after so many centuries, why do we always turn to war and to the imposition of force, always regretting it in the end, but always incapable of preventing them?

“Ours will be a democracy without terrorism, but not without memory”, declared President J.L. Rodríguez Zapatero, who has worked so hard to achieve the total demise of ETA.

Not without memory: we must all now turn our attention to those who have suffered directly, those who have suffered the most and are still suffering the consequences of terrorist acts.

Not without memory, because we must all now serenely seek conciliation and peace in our lives, in our streets, in our towns and cities, in our nations…

Our steadfast memory so that the secular culture of imposition, dominance, violence and war may give way, now and forever, to a culture of dialogue, alliance and peace.

To achieve the transition from force to words would not only constitute the greatest turning point in all human history, but also the commencement of a new era, a “new beginning”. From the raised fist to the outstretched hand.

There were not two groups in conflict here: there was a group against the people, against innocent people. Nor was there a “confrontation”, but rather gunshots to the back. Now, the end where before it was touch and go.

Not without memory, so that we will never again have to wait, amid unending tension and anxiety, for the terror to end.

No more fanaticism, dogmatism, or the obstinacy of those who always believe they are right. No more biased news.

We have to endeavor to listen and respect those who maintain positions diametrically opposite to our own.

It’s not easy for memory and redress to walk hand in hand.

“Building peace in the minds of men” is the great mission entrusted to UNESCO. Instead of “if you want peace, prepare for war”, we must all undertake to build peace in our lives daily.

Those of us who, under the skeptical and often hostile gaze of quite a few others, have for years worked to leave the future generations peace for themselves, on earth and with the earth, now express our deepest satisfaction at ETA’s “irreversible” decision.

And we seek to strengthen democracy and understanding with the memory of each and every one of the victims.

We also express our deepest gratitude to all of those who, often at the risk of their lives, have at last made the end of ETA possible.