Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA)




    The Flag of the Basque Region [1] 

    Status Active
    AKA:  Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA), Herri Batasuna (HB, People's Unity)
    Formed  1959
    Area of Operations Spain, France, Argentina, Canada, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Venezuela 
    Ideology Political (Communist - Marxist), Social (Nationalist/Separatist - Basque)
    Leadership Jurdan Martitegi Lizaso, Ibon Gogeascoechea, Aspiazu Rubina, Franciso Javier Lopez Pena, Miguel de Garikoitz Aspiazu
    Group Affiliates Action Direct (France) Breton Revolutionary Army (France), Communist Combatant Cells (Belgium), Iparretarrak (Basque France), Provisional Irish Republican Army, Red Brigades (Italy), Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC)

    Organizational History

    The Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) group’s main objective is the establishment of an independent homeland loosely based on Marxist principles in Spain’s Basque region and the Southwestern French provinces of Labourd, Basse-Navarra, and Soule.  Other aims subsumed under the overall goal of Basque independence include [2] union of the province of Navarre with Euskadi; and [3] regrouping of imprisoned ETA activists currently serving sentences in Spain in prisons in the Basque region.

    The ETA had its origin in a nationalist group, EKIN, which was founded by young activists from Vizcaya and Gipuzkoa who felt that the Partido Nacionalista Vasco (PNV) was not acting energetically enough to advance the Basque cause.  In 1958, EKIN became Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), the only armed group to emerge during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. ETA’s first military action was in 1961; an unsuccessful attempt to derail a train carrying civil war veterans traveling to Donostia to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War. It was not until 1968 that the ETA claimed its first life in reaction to the killing of a popular ETA activist by police. During the mid-1970s, ETA conducted one of its most intense terrorist campaigns that climaxed during the years 1978-1980 and resulted in hundreds of casualties. In September 1998, ETA announced its first ceasefire, which was not adhered to for long. Since 2008, many ETA leaders have been arrested in both France and Spain, which has left the group considerably weaker. 


    The structure of ETA is cellular; members (commandos) are organized into 3 or 4 member cells. ETA designates at least two cells for each region, one serving as the current operational unit for the area, the other acting as a reserve unit; the group also has a command council which sanctions terrorist activities and is believed to be composed of six people.


    Funding comes primarily from Basque supporters, extortion, collection of Basque revolutionary taxes, drug trafficking, kidnapping, and armed robberies; ETA is still using its financial network to blackmail businessmen in the Basque Country, the group sends threatening letters to businessmen explaining the purpose of the extortion and the time limit on releasing funds to the group.


    The ETA’s overall campaign of violence cannot be properly understood outside of the theory of repressive action that has guided the group since the 1960s; specifically, ETA developed a model called the spiral of action-repression-action.  The model demonstrates an initial armed action by the group which produces repression by the State, this repression extends beyond the terrorist group and serves to alienate those who previously supported the state.  To some extent it can be argued that ETA’s theory of violence has met with at least some success; the group has been successful in promoting violence among a small subsection of Basque youth; indeed, the strategy of “street fighting” by young ETA supporters has cost the Spanish government tens of millions of dollars in damage, and violent youth organizations have promoted the ETA’s action-repression-action cycle.  Furthermore, new legislation from Madrid has extended some of this youth activity to be included as terrorist activity and has resulted in prison sentences for young offenders [4]

    ETA considers France an important base for the acquisition of explosives; industrial dynamite has been obtained from the Titanite plant of Plevin, in Brittany; in March 2001, a group of eight Basque members seized 1.6 tons of titadine near Grenoble.




    A snake wrapped around an axe is a common symbol of ETA



    Basque separatists claim regions of both Spain and France



    ETA typically issues statements through a trio of masked members, who are often lampooned in the Spanish media. 



    ETA is believed to be responsible for over 800 deaths since their inception in 1959



     ETA have proven themselves both capable and ruthless in their use of explosives



    An ETA cell responsible for a series of bombings in Spain in 2009



    1. Image retrieved on 08/16/2011 from [1]
    2. Shepard, W. S. (2002). The ETA: Spain fights Europe’s last active terrorist group. Mediterranean Quarterly, 13(1), 54- 69
    3. Barros, C. P. (2003). An intervention analysis of terrorism: the Spanish ETA case. Defence and Peace Economics, 14(6), 401-412
    4. Woodworth, P. (2001). Why do they kill? World Policy Journal, 18(1), 1-12.
    5. Image Retrieved on 08/16/2011 from [2]
    6. Image Retrieved on 08/16/2011 from [3]
    7. Image Retrieved on 08/16/2011 from [4]
    8. Image Retrieved on 08/16/2011 from [5]
    9. Image Retrieved on 08/16/2011 from [6]