Date: Sat, 20 Sep 1997 07:42:43 -0600
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: EW Plawiuk <ewplawiuk@MAIL.GEOCITIES.COM>
Subject: Spains Dirty War against ETA
Cloaked in secrecy, with an alleged unwritten government mandate, a group of police and government officials in Spain carried out as many as 27 assassinations and assaults in the early 1980s, according to prosecutors in Madrid.
Two former Basque Guardia Civil police chiefs, José Amedo and Michel Domínguez, were each imprisoned in 1991 and sentenced to 108 years in prison after confessing to acting alone in a series of attacks against Basque separatists. The Office of State Security paid the two defendants morethan $1.5 million to keep quiet, and provided monthly payments to their wives. That might havebeen the end of a much larger conspiracy if the two members of the elite Guardia Civil had keptquiet and not decided to tell their story to the media in 1994. Their revelations, implicating government officials and police in Spain and France, now threaten the political stability of Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, whose Interior Minister was indicted in January, bringing to 14 the number of government and police officials now on trial. Gonzalez denies knowledge of the plot, but public pressure has caused him to schedule elections in March, a year ahead of schedule.
Spain's so-called death squad had its genesis in 1983 at a meeting of seven high government officials outside Madrid where the problem of dealing with the ETA separatist movement (which had been responsible for more than 700 murders) was being discussed. One former official, Ricardo Damborenea, testified in court that the group discussed what he termed “the Israeli” solution, which would involve kidnapping and killing terrorists, many of whom were hiding out in the Basque region of France, just across the Spanish border. However, Damborenea said that while the group discussed “doing something in France,” nothing illegal was planned.
Amedo, who became one of the anti-terrorist group's leaders, has said that he was given a suitcase filled with money and asked to deliver it to a contact in France. According to court records the money came from a secret government fund created to finance the new unit and to pay hired killers in France and Portugal. This was the beginning of the Grupos Anti-terroristas de Liberacion (GAL), or Anti-terrorist Liberation Group, which was set up as a secret death squad that claimed credit for covert police operations. From December of 1983 to February of 1986, a series of assassinations and kidnappings were undertaken in which 27 people were killed, and another 30 wounded, most of whom were members of ETA. Investigators have also told the court that seven people were killed by mistake.
According to New York Times reporter Marlise Simons, between 1983 and 1987 large sums of money were used to pay off French police officers across the border, hire hit men from the ranks of former French paratroopers, and contract killers from Lisbon and Marseilles. In one of its earliest operations a Moroccan and a former French soldier kidnapped the wrong man and brought him back across the border. He was later brought back to France.
GAL established itself as a terrorist organization, issuing communiqués and taking credit for killings and bombings. According to Domínguez, who translated many of the messages into French, one of the messages was given to him personally by the former director-general of the Guardia Civil to read on the radio.
When the controversy over whether or not GAL was funded by the government began, operations ceased. The group was disbanded in 1987 when France agreed to work with Spain to curb terrorism, extraditing a number of ETA leaders and deporting others to Algeria. According to Simons, the two officers in jail became disenchanted when “hush money had dried up.” They gave their story to an opposition newspaper, El Mundo, which ran it in five installments, prompting the investigation resulting in the current trial of 14 former police and government officials.
Among those officials remanded into custody in connection with the case were Francisco Alvarez, former head of the Joint Anti-Terrorist Command, Ricardo Garcia Damborenea, former secretary-general of the Socialist Party in Viscaya, Rafael Vera, former secretary of state for security, Juan de Justo, Vera's former private secretary, Lieutenant General Emilio Alonso Manglano, former official at the High Center for Defense Intelligence [CESID], Colonel Juan Alberto Perote, former head of covert operations for CESID, Miguel Planchuelo, former Bilbao police chief, and Julian Sancristobal, former director-general for state security.
Exactly how all this will affect Prime Minister Gonzalez in the long-run is still unclear, but the charges continue to mount. Perote, who implicated Manglano, insisted to Spain's Supreme Court that CESID provided arms, forged documents, and crucial intelligence to GAL. And Damborenea has testified that Prime Minister Gonzalez gave direct approval of some GAL operations.
But perhaps most damaging of all for Gonzalez has been the connection of José Barrionuevo to GAL. Barrionuevo is a very close associate of Gonzalez and was Spain's interior minister during the time of GAL's “dirty war.” He left the position to take over the transport and communications portfolio in July of 1988, coinciding with early court probes into government support of GAL. So far, Barrionuevo has been implicated by Planchuelo and Sancristobal. In December, he was questioned by the Spanish Supreme Court on suspicion of misuse of public funds, kidnapping, and association with an armed band as related to GAL connections.