Governments lying about terrorism? Surely I jest…

Two alleged ETA memberss were arrested last weekend by police in southwest France. The two were apparently driving a stolen car and carrying handguns and false IDs. That was how the story was initially told. Since then there have been some “modifications.”
Today, the Spanish interior minister — after meeting with his French counterpart — announced that the two men were also in possession of material for making explosives. If it is true that the two were carrying explosives material, that would be a serious breach of ETA’s ceasefire commitments. (The handguns are a relative non-issue, since every member of ETA in France carries one so that they’ll automatically be sent to a French prison rather than be handed over to Spanish authorities.)
There’s some reason to be suspicious about the Spanish Minister’s claim. As always.
First, the Spanish Interior Ministers Jorge Fernández Díaz’s story has changed over the last few days. As Gara reports, originally there was no mention made on Sunday of the explosives. Gara also notes that back in January the Interior Ministry made a similar claim about the possession of explosives when three alleged ETA members were arrested in January. In the ensuing months, however, no further mention of these explosives have been made.
Additionally, the Spanish minister on Sunday claimed that one of the men arrested, Oroitz Gurruchaga Gogorza, was the “military chief” of ETA. This apparently came as a surprise to French police who had only known of Gurruchaga for his involvement in low-level street violence, according to Sud Ouest. In his latest statements, Fernández has downplayed Gurruchaga’s position within the group as a “secondary” matter. Given that he’s been already caught stretching the truth, it’s hard to take Fernández at his word about the explosives.
The French Interior Ministry has been apparently mum on the arrests, neither confirming or denying — or even saying anything — about the claims of their Spanish counterparts. Indeed, the French seem to be completely following Spain’s lead dealing with ETA’s end. In the matter of these arrests, French media are quoting only the claims of the Spanish Interior.
But, there’s a much more important reason to suspect the claims of the Spanish Interior Ministry: They have a history of blatantly lying about ETA. And there have been some big lies. Remember the Mardid train bombings in 2004? Then Prime Minister José María Aznar tried to pin the blame for the attacks on ETA and continued to do so after it became clear that jihadists had perpetrated the bombings.
Why would the government lie about these arrests? In essence, the Spanish government has an interest in the continuation of “Basque terrorism,” especially since ETA is no longer cooperating in keeping the narrative going. By claiming that the “military chief” of ETA has been arrested or that rank-and-file militants were in possession of explosives, both Spain and France can look like they’re kicking ass in their little “War on Terror,” even in the total absence of violence. Such arrests and allegations keep “terrorism” in the news and allows for continued inaction on the peace front and for refusing to deal with the political demands of Basque nationalists. As an added bonus, it can distract attention from the little matter of the tanking Spanish economy, at least for a few days.
Again, if the explosives allegation is true then this is a potentially serious breach of ETA’s ceasefire commitments. But, if it’s false…well, it’s not like the Spanish government is subtle about being an obstacle to peace in the Basque Country. In fact, the Rajoy administration is pretty damned proud of this role.
The International Contact Group — the non-governmental body of renowned international figures overseeing ETA’s disengagement – denounced these latest arrests, saying that the Spanish and French government’s actions “refute the desire for peace of the Basque citizenry.”

 

Originally posted on Bullets and Ballots.