Euskadi Ta Askatasuna was founded in 1959 to advance an independent Basque state based on Marxist principles. The group felt the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and other nationalist groups in opposition to Franco were too moderate, instead advocating violence and direct action.
The Batsuna political party shares the agenda of the ETA, and is considered the group’s political arm. The party has been banned since 2003, and other iterations formed since to run in the Basque Parliamentary elections have been banned as well.
Efforts by Spain with cooperation from France have lead to the arrest of several ETA leaders and over 700 members, weakening the group significantly. The group now typically operates in very small regionally based cells. The group has a number of safe houses and makeshift prisons. Public support for ETA has declined, however, due to its progressively violent methods.
The group has arranged and broken several ceasefires with the Spanish government, most recently in 2006.
ETA has recently collaborated with FARC and has alleged connections with other leftist groups, though it remains formally distinct from the majority of other Basque nationalist groups.
ETA advocates “street fighting”, which includes vandalism, rioting, arson, destruction of private property, and car bombings. ETA often attacks economic targets and crowded areas, such as malls, tourist attractions, and public transportation. In total, the group has carried out over 1,600 terrorist attacks, killing an estimated 800 people.
Since 1968, ETA has assassinated political officials, judges, military personnel, journalists, and defectors. Particularly notable is the group’s 1973 assassination by bomb of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, president of the government and Franco’s chosen successor. A plot to assassinate King Juan Carlos was prevented in 1995.
The ETA also kidnaps for extortion or political bargaining, locking the victims in small underground rooms and executing them if demands are not met, such as the abduction and subsequent murder of council member Miguel Ángel Blanco in 1997, which generated huge public outcry against the group.
ETA’s “permanent ceasefire” with the Spanish government ended in December 2006 when the group set off a car bomb at a Madrid airport, and attacks have continued since.
ETA seeks the independence of the Basque homeland, the region of the Greater Basque Country of northern Spain and southern France, although the group also conducts attacks against other areas of Spain, particularly Madrid and other populated areas. The group also has limited activity in France, where its leadership has previously been based.
Extortion, via a “revolutionary tax” imposed on businesses and kidnapping (often of those who refuse to pay the tax) comprises the bulk of ETA financing. The group also receives funds and supplies through theft, arms trafficking, and support from individuals and the Batasuna party, as well as some involvement in narcotics among expatriate Basque supporters in Mexico. A small hardcore of supporters within the Basque provinces has continued to renew ETA’s physical infrastructure and recruit new members continually for 50 years. The group’s ability to regenerate may be virtually indefinite.