Saturday, June 04, 2005

IT IS TAKING PLACE at this very moment:
Spain's prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero faces the first major demonstration against him today when tens of thousands are to march through Madrid demanding he does not negotiate with the Basque terrorist group Eta.

Organisers said at least 200 coaches were due for the march, which has the backing of the main conservative opposition, the People's party.

The march comes more than a year after Mr Zapatero's Socialist party formed a government and a month after the Spanish parliament gave him the go ahead to open talks with Eta if it shows a "clear will" to renounce violence.

"Do not negotiate in my name," is the slogan of a march that was also expected to attract dissident sectors of Mr Zapatero's own party.

The marchers, to be led by relatives of some of the 800 people killed by Eta over the past three decades, will go from the site of one Eta bomb attack in Madrid to another.

Organisers claimed it was not a protest against Mr Zapatero but against any attempt to talk to Eta - a group going through the weakest period of its 30 year history after failing to cause any deaths for two years.

"We want to demonstrate against a policy that we believe is humiliating for the victims of terrorism," explained José Alcaraz, president of the Association of Terrorism Victims.

"I could not live in a place where those who represent me are striking deals with those who nearly killed me," said Irene Villa, who lost both legs in an Eta bomb blast a dozen years ago when she was 12.

But with the People's party throwing its weight behind the demonstration, and the Socialists and their allies calling on their own people to stay away, the march is being measured as a protest against Mr Zapatero.
I am watching it live on TV; there's no estimate yet of how many people are attending the demonstration, but it's really, really huge. And I am really irrated by the bla bla by the parties who are staying away from the rally. They accuse the Popular Party of making ETA victims and relatives their own cause. But it's their own cause simply because the Socialists and their buddies have miserably abandoned them, just in case ETA terrorists get irritated when they sit at a table for negotiation. ETA victims used to be a common cause for the PP and the Socialists until quite recently... in fact, until Zapatero became Primer Minister; the reason being that ETA had been killing militants of both parties (this is why quite a few sectors of the Socialist party are mad about Zapaterlain policy of appeasement). But since a few months ago, they have left the Popular party as the only party caring for the victims, and they still complain that the PP is keeping all victims to themselves!

UPDATE. Telemadrid, the regional public TV network broadcasting the demo (I'm still in Barcelona, but watching it via satellite) reports, quoting the Madrid's regional president Esperanza Aguirre, that 20 minutes before the scheduled start there were approximately 200,000 people. I assume there'll be many more as it progresses.

UPDATE II. According to Telemadrid again, local police has released a figure: 850,000. Organizers have an even higher figure: 1 million (the real one is probably in between). That's more or less the same number on the big rallies against the Iraq war, touted by the intelligentzia as an evidence of a vibrant democracy in which people were speaking the truth to self-centered politicians. The same inteligentzia has been criticizing the plans for today's demonstration because they now say that street demonstrations are not really democratic since it's up to politicians to make decisions. We'll have to see what they have to say after this huge demo, but I'm sure they'll work out something mean.

UPDATE III (Sunday, June 5th): Updates to this post follow in this new entry.

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