9781859182765 / 1859182763

Dirty Wars, Clean Hands: ETA, the GAL, and Spanish Democracy


Publisher:Cork University Press



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About the book:

"Democracy is defended in the sewers as well as in the salons". This is how Spanish prime minister Felipe González responded to allegations that his government was fighting the Basque separatist group ETA with its own methods: indiscriminate terrorism. shooting up crowded bars, bombing busy streets, torturing kidnap victims. For three years the GAL (Anti-terrorist Liberation Groups), created mayhem in the French Basque Country, where ETA had its "sanctuary".

In 1986, the French government began to hand over ETA suspects to the Spanish police in large numbers and the GAL campaign stopped. But this "dirty war" had already created widespread support for ETA among the first generation of Basques to grow up under democracy, and its consequences reverberate to this day. The GAL's links to the Spanish security forces, and finally to González's own cabinet, have been revealed, despite all the resources of 'State secrecy', by controversial magistrates like Baltasar Garzón.

Over the last 15 years, the GAL scandal has fatally undermined González's reputation as a democrat and EU statesman and raised fundamental questions about Spain's much-praised transition to democracy. The GAL investigations have stretched the relationship between government and judiciary to breaking point, and sent ministers and generals to prison. González himself may still face charges.

Paddy Woodworth, who has covered Spain for the "Irish Times" and other media since the 1970s, has interviewed both the GAL's surviving victims and the GAL's leading protagonists. He has followed the investigations in the Spanish media and courts for many years. The result is a unique and dramatic narrative and analysis of what happens when a democratic administration fights fire with fire.

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