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Spanish parties suspend campaigning after car bomb kills opposition leader

February 22, 2000
Web posted at: 11:11 p.m. EST (0411 GMT)

In this story:

Basque separatists suspected

Incident not expected to affect elections


VITORIA, Spain -- Spanish political parties suspended election campaigning early Wednesday following public protests against the Basque separatist group ETA, hours after a bomb killed the leader of the opposition Basque Socialist Party and his bodyguard.

Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's Popular Party on Wednesday also suspended all campaign broadcasts -- less than three weeks before the March 12 election. In a televised speech Tuesday night, Aznar vowed his government would not bow to "terrorist blackmail."

His rival in the election, Joaquin Almunia -- who has in the past criticized Aznar for failing to maintain links with moderate Basque nationalists -- said the killings would only strengthen Spain's determination to fight ETA.

Hundreds of people took part in small demonstrations in Madrid and in the Basque region late Tuesday, hours after the bomb killed Fernando Buesa in the Basque capital, Vitoria. Bigger marches were scheduled for Wednesday.

Basque separatists suspected

The car bomb attack Tuesday killed Buesa, head of the Socialist party in Alava province and a former deputy president of the Basque region. His bodyguard was also killed while walking with Buesa near a university campus.

No one claimed responsibility for the explosion, but officials suspect ETA's involvement. ETA -- fighting for an independent state in northeast Spain and southwest France -- has not made a statement as yet.

Incident not expected to affect elections

The Spanish government has also blamed Basque separatists for a blast in Madrid in January that killed an army officer and apparently marked the end of a 14-month truce in the rebels' three-decade fight that has killed about 800 people so far.

Political analysts said Buesa's death might disrupt campaigning over the next few days but probably will not sway the election because both the leading parties are opposed to demands for Basque self-determination.

Spain's King Juan Carlos, on a visit to the United States, was reported to be "mourning and angry." Spain's Catholic Church also joined the chorus of condemnation of Tuesday's bomb blast, which the two bishops of San Sebastian in the Basque region called a "crude blow to democracy."

Reuters contributed to this report.

Army officer killed in Madrid bombings
January 21, 2000
Spain skeptical of Basque rebel truce
September 17, 1998
Basque town official killed in car bomb attack
January 9, 1998
Thousands march for Basque independence in Spain
July 27, 1997
Violence marks 5th day of ETA protests in Spain
July 15, 1997

CNN En Español:
Sepultan a oficial asesinado en España, aumentan las protestas contra ETA
Enero 22, 2000
Infantes escapan de milagro a las explosiones
Enero 21, 2000

Basque History and Historical Documents
Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA)
Association for Peace in the Basque Country
Euskal Herria Journal | Basque Political Conflict
CIA -- The World Factbook 1999 -- Spain
Spanish Culture - Northern Ireland and The Basque Country - April 12, 1998

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