Why does Rodríguez Zapatero need the special congress permission?

This week ETA has killed police inspector Eduardo Puelles, and the Government and the main opposition party (PP) have given an image of unity in their response to this new assassination, calling for the defeat of ETA. It seems that the PP backs the Government’s current counter-terrorism policy.

However, it is hard to believe that the Government really wants to see ETA defeated while they still keep alive a permit in congress to allow the Government to negotiate with ETA killers.

Furthermore, we no longer hear the PP voice their old demand that the Government of Rodríguez Zapatero revoke the special permit to negotiate with ETA. The PP stopped asking for this since they failed to win the presidential elections of 2008.

As a reminder, the “special permit” allows the Government to initiate negotiations with ETA terrorists if ETA ceases the bombing, killing and blackmailing.

The problem is… how to assert that such practices have indeed stopped? Spanish president Rodríguez Zapatero once claimed that there was evidence to believe that the terrorists had laid down their weapons, and that he would order contacts with ETA.

The problem is, in fact, that the blackmailing of businessmen by ETA never stopped, despite what Rodríguez Zapatero said. And now we are reminded again that the killing never stopped either, with 10 assassinations already since ETA faked a cease-fire, when Rodríguez Zapatero replied with a permit from congress to negotiate with them.

Since 2006 until 2008 the main opposition party (PP) claimed the congress-granted permit for the Government to talk with ETA to be revoked. After the general election in 2008, the PP never again requested the revocation.

Today, both the Government and the opposition (along with several mainstream newspapers) highlight the “unity” of Government and opposition in counter terrorism policy, but I still doubt claims by president Rodríguez Zapatero that he wants to see ETA defeated. He would be more easily believed if he himself promoted the revocation of the permit to negotiate with ETA. After all, the special congress authorization cannot be applied, and is not needed; or does the Government need it?

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