Spain: Thousands Rally In Bilbao For Basque Autonomy

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October 22, 2011

Tens of thousands of people rallied in the capital of Spain’s Basque region to demand greater autonomy and the transfer of Basque prisoners to jails in the home region.

Protesters, including Basque political leaders, marched peacefully in the streets of Bilbao Saturday with banners saying “the Basques want solutions.” Some of them chanted calls for a return of former Basque militants from prisons outside the region.

The protest comes two days after the Basque separatist group ETA declared an end to its 43-year bloody campaign for an independent homeland in a part of northern Spain and southwest France.

The group did not say if it will disarm. But in the videotaped statement Thursday, ETA called for talks with Spanish and French governments.

Spain, France and the United States cautiously welcomed the declaration, but made no other comments on future actions.

All three regard ETA as a terrorist group.

ETA is blamed for 829 deaths in its fight for an independent homeland.

The separatist group declared several cease-fires in the past. In January, it declared a unilateral cease-fire, which was rejected by Spain’s government because the group made no pledge to lay down its arms and disband.

Some Basque leaders renounced violence last year, calling for the pro-independence movement to shift to a peaceful agenda.

There are about 700 Basque prisoners, most of them in Spain and some in France.

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The VOA is the Voice of America

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