Millions march in Spain to honor slain politician
Spanish king speaks out to condemn terrorism
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July 14, 1997
Web posted at: 11:00 p.m. EDT
ERMUA, Spain (CNN) -- Spain came to a virtual standstill Monday as millions rallied to condemn terrorism and honor a young politician kidnapped and murdered by Basque separatist guerrillas.
In Madrid, Barcelona and other cities, some two million people marched in the streets to vent their fury and grief of the death of
Miguel Angel Blanco
. He was found Saturday with two gunshot wounds in his head after the Spanish government refused to release 500 prisoners as demanded by the hostage takers.
Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar led a mass of people stretching more than 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) to the Puerta del Sol square, where the Madrid regional government building was draped in a three-story-high black ribbon. A sea of protesters stretching for several miles waved portraits of Blanco and chanted "Basques, yes! ETA, no!" and "Murderers! Murderers!."
Even Spain's King Juan Carlos made a rare televised message paying homage to the 29-year-old Blanco. The king told the Spanish people Monday night that his death "has not been in vain." Juan Carlos sought to reassure Spaniards, telling them he had "followed with great emotion the condemnation of terrorism throughout Spain."
Millions stop work
Outraged by the killing, millions stopped work at noon to observe 10 minutes of silence. Huge crowds stood motionless on the sidewalks in central Madrid. Traffic came to a halt. Even the stock exchange briefly stopped trading.
In Ermua, where Blanco was a popular member of the town council, tens of thousands lined the streets outside the packed chapel where Aznar and Crown Prince Felipe, the son of Juan Carlos, comforted grieving family members.
Crowds, held back by red-jacketed Basque police, chanted "Miguel, Miguel, Miguel" and "Murderers! Murderers!" as his casket was carried through narrow streets en route to its entombment at the town cemetery.
The Basque rebels have killed nearly 800 people in their long fight for an independent Basque homeland.
Killing sparks anger against guerrillas
Blanco's killing has sparked a public outcry against ETA, which has waged a violent 29-year struggle for an independent homeland. Blanco was the 10th person killed by ETA so far this year. The group had kidnapped 77 people in its history and set deadlines to execute hostages only twice before. In both cases, the threat was carried out.
Rebels abducted Blanco on Thursday and threatened to execute him unless 500 ETA inmates were moved to prisons in the Basque region by 4 p.m. on Saturday. The government said it would never give in to blackmail, and he was shot him just after the deadline passed.
Blanco was found on Saturday dumped on a mountain roadside outside the Basque city of San Sebastian, his hands tied behind his back and two bullets in his brain. He slipped into a coma and died before dawn on Sunday.
"With the barbarous assassination of Miguel Angel,
terrorism has shown its face cold and filled with cruelty," Bishop Ricardo Blazquez told mourners at Blanco's funeral.
"There is no justification for the murder of an innocent," he said of Blanco, a low-ranking member of Spain's ruling party.
Aznar vows to intensify fight
Aznar vowed earlier on Monday to intensify the fight against ETA, which has killed nearly 800 people since 1968. "We will put a stop to terrorism," he said.
But he warned his countrymen to brace for "painful days" ahead. "Those who only know how to kill, those who only know how to kidnap, will continue doing it."
While Blanco's killing has sparked a furious backlash against ETA, a group of rebel supporters struck back early Monday in the northern city of Pamplona.
About 50 youths wearing ski masks attacked the doors of city hall, throwing rocks and bottles, officials said. Police intervened and at least one person was injured.
Leaders from around the world voiced their outrage at Blanco's killing. "We are side by side with Spain in opposing terrorism and opposing this notoriously vicious terrorist organization, the ETA," said State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns.
"We reiterate our energetic rejection of the use of violence as a political weapon," Chilean President Eduardo Frei Monday said.
Aznar blasted ETA's political arm, Herri Batasuna, calling them "accomplices" to the murder and asking Spaniards to isolate them.
Herri Batasuna hold seats in the Basque and Navarre regional parliaments and the national congress.
"The terrorists and their political arm are on one side," Aznar said. "We democrats are on the other. We are many more. We are right and we want to live in peace."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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