Slain Basque Politician Mourned; Basques Demonstrate
BILBAO, Spain (AP) _ Thousands of mourners accompanied the body of a slain Basque politician through city streets today, and demonstrators around the Basque region burned barricades and closed businesses to protest his death.
Jon ″Josu″ Muguruza was killed Monday by two suspected right-wing gunmen as he sat in a Madrid restaurant with other Basque legislators of his radical coalition, the Herri Batasuna (Popular Union) Party. He was elected to parliament Oct. 29.
Muguruza’s body, accompanied by 5,000 supporters waving Basque flags and chanting anti-government slogans, was carried to city hall, where it will lie in state.
A second deputy-elect from the same party was shot in the attack, which came on the eve of the swearing-in ceremonies for the new Parliament. He has improved considerably since undergoing surgery for four bullet wounds, doctors said.
Herri Batasuna is widely regarded as the political wing of the separatist group ETA, which claims responsibility for attacks that have killed more than 600 people in a 21-year campaign for independence for the Spanish Basque region.
Most businesses in the region closed for the day, heeding the party’s call for a general strike or succumbing to pressure from roving groups of protesters who advised them not to open, news reports said.
Youths burned barricades on highways in the three Basque provinces and neighboring Navarre, and officials suspended bus service in the provincial capitals of San Sebastian, Bilbao, Vitoria and the Navarran capital, Pamplona.
One resident of the town of Santurce, who identified herself only as Susana, told Spanish radio that masked youths had shut down her bread store. ″We’re scared,″ she said.
Socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez has called the shooting ″horrendous″ and said apprehending the gunmen was a top priority for the government.
Several Spanish dailies, citing Interior Ministry sources, said investigators believe the two men who burst into the Madrid restaurant and opened fire with pistols were aiming at the injured politician, Inaki Esnaola, and accidentally killed Muguruza.
Two other deputies, three senators and three others were seated at the table but uninjured in the attack.
The dailies said the fact that the attack occurred on the 14th anniversary of the death of authoritarian ruler Gen. Francisco Franco, and that the gunmen used military-issue ammunition, led police to suspect a link with ultra-right army factions.
″(The) attack ... bears the unmistakable signs of fascism,″ leading daily El Pais said in an editorial.
Both Muguruza, who was 31, and the 41-year-old Esnaola were regarded as ″moderates″ who favored the resumption of talks between government representatives and ETA, suspended by Gonzalez in April after ETA broke a moratorium on its attacks.
They also supported Herri Batasuna’s decision to take its seats in Parliament for the first time since the country’s return to democracy in 1977 -a decision party spokesman Jon Idigoras said it would stick to, despite the attack.
Until now, Herri Batasuna members had refused to swear allegiance to the 1978 Spanish constitution, a prerequisite for parliamentary participation.