The Guardian April 7, 2004


Four days that shook Spain

The background: National elections were due to be held 
throughout Spain on Sunday, March 14. The government of the 
Popular Party (PP), with Aznar as Prime Minister, is a neo-
fascist government. It is not only a repressive government 
against the workers and the peoples of Spain, it is Bush's direct 
spokesperson in Europe. Aznar is one of the "faithful allies" in 
the war against Iraq.

During the election campaign the Popular Party uses the "war on 
terrorism" as its main policy point, accusing all other parties, 
especially the PSOE [the Socialist Party], of joking about 
terrorism. On the eve of the bomb attack on March 11, unofficial 
polls consider the Popular Party to be the front-runner, though 
without an absolute majority. 

Does this explain something about Aznar's attitude in the hours 
following the attacks in Madrid?

Day One:

On Thursday, March 11 between 7 am and 7.45 am, 10 of 13 bombs 
explode on trains and stations in a number of working class 
suburbs of Madrid resulting in 201 deaths and about 1500 injured.

Immediately, the Secretary of the Interior of the right-wing 
government declares that ETA, the military wing of the Basque 
separatist movement, is responsible.

At 10.30 am the spokesman for the Basque organisation Batasuna (a 
pro-independence party outlawed by Spanish Government) declares 
that the bombs had not been placed by ETA.

At 1 pm Prime Minister Aznar calls all newspaper editors to tell 
them it is the work of ETA.

At 5.25 pm Spain's Minister of Foreign Affairs tables the subject 
again. The Europa Press Agency reports that the Minister 
"sent a circular to all of Spain's ambassadors asking them to 
support the theory of ETA's responsibility". The Minister says 
that ETA is guilty and she requires all ambassadors to stick to 
this point of view. "Her Excellency uses every occasion to 
confirm the responsibility of ETA in these attacks and remove all 
doubts on the subject."

The UN Security Council votes on a resolution presented by Spain, 
condemning the bomb attack.

Second Day

Doubts set in: "Was it the work of ETA?"

A Madrid correspondent writes: "The [trade] unions are calling 
for 15-minute strike at noon on Friday. Gatherings are to be held 
in front of factories and business federations to insist that the 
government discloses all the information."

One of the trade union federations issues a declaration 
condemning terrorism but without reference to ETA. On Friday 
morning, the Madrid Government convenes a meeting of all parties 
and organisations. It wants to dictate to all that the banners 
for the demonstrations that evening should read: "Defence of the 
constitution!" 

But the trade union federations decide, despite all the threats, 
to organise a procession with their own banners.

In the evening, at 7 pm, over 11 million workers and young people 
take over all the parks and avenues of Spain's cities.

At 7 pm there are more than two million in the streets. Suddenly 
Jose Aznar arrives accompanied by Prince Felipe of Spain. The 
masses shout: "Who did it?" The demonstrators refuse to be taken 
in by those who triggered the war in Iraq.

Mixed in with the demonstrators are organised fascist groups. 
They attempt to attack the procession of trade unions shouting: 
"Re-establish the death penalty! Death to Carod and Ibarretxe!" 
[Carod is Secretary of the Republican Left of Catalonia, which 
calls for political negotiation with ETA. Ibarretxe is the 
President of the Basque regional government and head of the 
Basque Nationalist Party.]

The demonstrators repel the fascist groups.

The doubts increase: If it wasn't ETA, why do Aznar and the 
government make these accusations?

There are more cries: "No to war!" More and more groups shout at 
Aznar: "Liar! We want to know the truth!" Some demonstrators 
wonder: "Is this demonstration against the ETA or against the 
Popular Party?"

Barcelona

One million three hundred thousand citizens of Barcelona gather 
in the centre of the Catalan capital. They shout: "No to 
terrorism, No to war!" "Aznar is responsible!"

The banners read: "Madrid, Baghdad victims of the same war!" and 
"New York, September 11, Madrid March 11, London 11?" The leaders 
of the Popular Party withdraw from the head of the demonstration 
under police protection, as the demonstrators boo and oust them 
from the gathering.

The crowd screams accusations: "Assassins! Assassins!" Of all the 
demonstrations, the one in Barcelona is probably the one that 
most clearly expresses the rejection of the government, the war 
and the manipulation of the attack.

Seven hundred thousand demonstrators in Valencia cry. "No to 
violence, no to terrorism, No to war!"

There, too, they cry out: "The Popular Party-Aznar are guilty!" 
and "Aznar lies". 

Day Three

An interview with political expert Francois Heisburg questions: 
"Has the government tried to deceive, to distort?"

The answer: "I don't think the lies were intended to deceive 
public opinion  but in terms of political management, it is 
disastrous."

However, it is not just a question of "management". It is the 
politics of "state lies"  the Big Lie. Like Blair and Bush with 
their famous weapons of mass destruction. Most people now 
understand that there were no such weapons.

In Spain the newspaper El Pams is seriously worried: "The 
government is on the ETA track  it is to be hoped that there 
wasn't an attempt to hide or manipulate information."

At 11 am on Saturday morning and at a cemetery in Madrid, two 
activists from the service industry (banks, insurance) who died 
in the attack are buried. Crowds accompany their coffins. The 
heads of the UGT trade union federation are there: "We must 
insist the government discloses all the information it is 
withholding. It is obvious that they won't say anything until 
after the elections. They must be accountable. They put us in 
this war. They made the war that has arrived in Madrid."

On Saturday evening at around 8.15 pm there is a sudden turn of 
events. The Secretary of the Interior appears on television 
screens to announce five arrests in regard to the investigation 
into the most horrific terrorist act Spain has ever seen.

The declaration is being issued, says one newspaper, in a climate 
of general doubt and suspicion of the information given out by 
the Spanish Government a few hours before the elections.

In Madrid, hundreds of people gather late on Saturday opposite 
the headquarters of the Popular Party to demand the whole truth. 
Even at midnight, several thousands remain. "We want the truth 
before we vote", demand the demonstrators.

In Washington, several hours before Aznar's electoral defeat, 
Colin Powell congratulates the Spanish PM, the "faithful friend". 
Why?

The International Herald Tribune replies: "To defend the 
decision to invade Iraq, the first anniversary of which will take 
place this Saturday". Powell declares: "The Prime Minister of 
Spain didn't shirk his responsibilities and I hope other leaders 
will not back out of theirs."

Day Four  the day of the elections

On election day, Sunday March 14, the Paris Le Journal 
still believes in Aznar's victory: "The drama of March 11 
probably won't deprive the Spanish right of its victory."

In Madrid, Aznar votes in a charged atmosphere. The Spanish Prime 
Minister is booed by demonstrators accusing him of the massacre. 
As he left the polling station Aznar attempts to make a 
statement, which was inaudible due to the demonstrators' shouts, 
"Manipulators!"

A journalist comments: "For once, Basques and Spaniards are in 
agreement."

At midday, the rate of voter participation is five percent higher 
than at the election of 2000. "I've never seen this!" said a 
young electrician leaving the voting booth in Madrid. "This 
mobilisation favours the Socialist Party because this attack is 
the consequence of the Aznar/Bush alliance."

At 7 pm, as the polls are getting ready to close, the radio 
announces a rate of participation in the election eight percent 
higher than in the 2000 elections.

At 8 pm the first election results start coming in. "The Popular 
Party could carry the election, though without a majority."

At 8.10 pm on the same TV networks a bell rings: "Small advance 
by the Socialist Party."

At 11 pm comes the announcement: "The Popular Party is beaten!"

Over the next few days:

"Sudden turn of events!"  "Shock wave"  these are the 
headlines that appear in the newspapers. For them the voters are 
never more than numbers at the polls.

The immense crowds that gathered in their millions on Thursday 
and Friday on the streets of Madrid, Barcelona, Pamplona and 
Bilbao have seized the Socialist Party vote to put down not only 
lies, but the war, the politics of privatisation, the destruction 
of jobs and the social regression implemented over eight years by 
Aznar under the baton of the European Union.

The Guardian (London) editorial sees it as "more than a 
Spanish event."

The International Herald Tribune: "Many voters expressed 
their anger at a government accused of support for the war in 
Iraq."

"The Bush Government is going to fight against the perception, 
true or false, that attacks on US allies can make countries 
wonder if it is wise to maintain such close ties with Mr. Bush," 
notes The New York Times of March 15.

The Washington Post states: "By voting against the party 
of Prime Minister Josi Marma Aznar, Spaniards apparently judged 
that the unconditional support of the Iraq war driven by the 
Americans caused the 200 deaths in Madrid on Thursday. The defeat 
of the Popular Party deprives the Bush administration of one of 
its strongest allies in Europe."

On Monday, the future head of the Spanish Government, Josi 
Zapatero, declares: "The Spanish people voted for a government of 
change". He announces the recall of the 1300 Spanish soldiers 
stationed in Iraq: "The war in Iraq was a disaster. The 
occupation is a disaster."

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