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Peace Push Grows in Disputed Basque Region of Spain

December 11, 1995|SCOTT KRAFT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Although former ETA members have been killed by ETA operatives in the recent past, and Goiburu acknowledges that he and his friends are detested by the ETA, he insists he isn't worried.

"These ETA guys know us, but we know who they are too," he said. "And they know that if anything ever happened to us, we would act. That's why I'm not afraid."

Goiburu was just a teenager when he first joined the ETA. He rose to become head of the ETA political-military wing and was arrested after a shootout with police in the mid-1970s.

While Goiburu was in prison, though, Franco died and the political landscape changed. A week before the country's first democratic elections in 1977, Goiburu and other ETA members were released in a peace gesture. He went into exile and resumed his ETA work.

But in 1981, Goiburu's wing of the ETA declared a cease-fire, and he eventually returned to the country. He now says the turning point for him was the realization, after the Basque region won home rule in 1979, that the majority of the Basque people no longer supported the violent campaign.

"When I saw Basques on the street protesting against us, I realized that Basque nationalism couldn't go hand in hand with violence," he said.

He got married, went to college, had children and, a few years ago, took his current job--hired by a man who had survived an ETA kidnapping attempt.

These days, Goiburu has no regrets about his past. Asked if he ever killed anyone, he declined to answer, saying only, "We were involved in a war and I accept moral responsibility for what I have done."

"I don't see this as a personal issue," he added. "It was just a political issue. The ETA grew out of a society under repression. It would never have been born had Franco not tried to suppress the Basque people."

Kraft was recently on assignment in Irun.

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