By Alyssa McMurtry
OVIEDO, Spain (AA) – Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Thursday presided over the symbolic destruction of around 1,400 weapons formerly belonging to Spanish groups declared terrorists in the country and Europe.
The vast majority of the weapons were seized over the past decades from ETA, a Basque separatist group responsible for more than 800 deaths from the late 1960s to 2011.
Firearms belonging to Marxist group GRAPO, which was behind the assassination of 84 people between 1975 and 2007, were also lined up and flattened by a bulldozer in Thursday’s ceremony.
“We can’t get those lives back and we can’t destroy our dark past like we’ve done to the weapons today,” said Sanchez.
“What we are able to do is fight against historical forgetfulness to repair the pain and the honor [of the victims].”
ETA was officially disbanded in 2018.
Sanchez called the ceremony a highly symbolic moment that underscores the power of “democracy to defeat bullets.”
“Whoever hands over weapons, accepts defeat,” he said, adding that Spain is still investigating the full crimes of ETA.
In the ceremony, he also reflected on the lives lost in Spain to other terrorist groups such as Daesh, the GAL paramilitary group set up to fight ETA and other far-right groups.
“Behind these weapons, there are many tragedies. The destruction of these arms signifies the defeat of terrorist organizations,” said Florencio Domínguez, head of the Center for the Memory of Terrorism Victims, at the event.
Yet, not everyone was happy with the event.
Daniel Portero, head of the Dignity and Justice Foundation, whose father was killed by ETA, called the event “clear propaganda by the central government.”
Portero, who is also a conservative Popular Party politician, said Spain’s prime minister was just trying to “clean up his bad image in the eyes of terrorism victims,” which has derived from his party’s negotiations with the Basque nationalist party EH Bildu and allowing prison transfers for convicted ETA felons.
While the event was attended by Spanish socialist ministers and members of the police force, no leaders from the opposition parties were present.