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Spain

Yearbook 1999

Spain. According to Countryaah official website, the Basque separatist movement ETA (Euskadi ta Azkatasuna, Basque Country and Freedom) declared late in the fall that it intended to resume its armed struggle for an independent Basque country. In September 1998, ETA announced an unconditional ceasefire and began negotiations with the Spanish government. But negotiations have been slow since ETA has set demands that the Spanish government with Prime Minister José María Aznar at the head could not accept. ETA demanded, among other things, that its imprisoned members would be released and that a referendum in the Basque region would determine whether total autonomy would be introduced, implied independence, instead of the extensive autonomy that now prevails. In addition, ETA wanted three convicted ETA men to lead their negotiating delegation - one of which has, among other things, was convicted of attempted murder against Spain's King Juan Carlos.

1999 Spain

ETA's announcement that it would resume its armed struggle triggered a storm of protest throughout Spain where people marched in large demonstration trains against the violence. The government announced that there would be no more talks with ETA until the organization had distanced itself from violent acts. ETA responded by starting again to send threatening letters to businessmen in the Basque Country. Extortion of businessmen and ransom in case of kidnappings have long been the organization's main sources of income.

At the autumn regional elections in Catalonia, the Union Party (CiU, Convergència in Unió) with party leader Jordi Pujol at the head won a tight victory. A loss to the party would have meant a threat to Prime Minister Aznar, who needs the Catalans' support to retain government power.

In the spring, the Swedish company Boliden was granted permission to restart the quarrying of zinc in the Los Frailes mine outside Seville. Operation had been stalled since the dam, where heavy metal-containing residual products from the mine were stored, burst in the summer of 1998 and caused an environmental disaster around the Doñana National Park. The park was threatened again on New Year's Eve when close to 50 million toxic water leaked from a pond where residual products from a fertilizer plant were stored not far from the Boliden mine. However, the leaks could be sealed fairly quickly.

In the fall, the Spanish lawyer Juan Garcés was awarded the Alternate Nobel Prize, or the Right Livelihood Prize, together with two other award winners. The three had a share of SEK 1.8 million. Juan Garcés was rewarded for his hard work to bring Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet to trial. Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon last year requested that Pinochet be extradited from the UK where he was staying for medical treatment. Garcés investigates cases involving Spaniards who were murdered or disappeared in Chile between 1973 and 1990. The British courts have found it compatible with the law that the 83-year-old, who has been in house arrest in London since late 1998, can be extradited to Spain.

In September, Spain rejected a request from Chile for mediation in the case. When Spain declined, Chile called home its ambassador from Madrid. Chile then announced its intention to draw Spain before the International Court of Justice in The Hague in order to try to stop the expulsion of the former dictator.

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