De Juana Chaos is in jail in Madrid, and they've ordered that he be force-fed if he goes on hunger strike again. Judge Garzón pulled the passports of Batasuna leaders Otegi and Barrena, and prosecutors have petitioned the Supreme Court to imprison Otegi based on his previous convictions and suspended sentences. Otegi may go to prison as soon as this evening. Zap and justice minister Fernández Bermejo publicly warned the ANV that it might be banned at any time under the Political Parties Act.
At 6 AM today, the French cops arrested three ETA medium-size fish, part of the recruiting squad, in a town near the Spanish frontier. One of them was in on the robbery of 350 pistols last year at a French factory, and another one is a suspect (he was acquitted in 2006) in a murder in Zaragoza, as well as being an instructor in explosives and firearms. French cops had been surveilling them for a couple of weeks, and decided to make the arrests now because they thought this cell might be ready to pull an attack in Spain.
Looks like Rajoy is pretty much getting what he wants, though I'd hold out for Conde Pumpido's head before I'd be willing to make nice. Then the responsible thing for Rajoy to say would be something like "We have many differences with Mr. Zapatero and the PSOE, but we know that we must work together with the PSOE and other democratic parties that oppose violence in order to form a united front and finally defeat ETA. We are willing to put aside our disagreements until the next election if the PSOE is willing to do the same." Besides being the right thing to do, it would also be politically expedient; the PP could go around saying "We're not dividers, we're uniters." They'd gain a lot of votes in the center and lose very few on the right; the right has nowhere else to go anyway.
The pundits say there's no way Zap's going to call an early election; it'll be in March 2008, and the Andalusian regional election will be held the same day. Reason: Andalusia is the PSOE's breadbasket, and Zap figures that the regional election will bring out even more voters there.
There's another piece of important terrorism news that won't get much play outside Spain: The Guardia Civil arrested six persons in Barcelona's Sant Andreu district last night. They're accused of being members of the "very violent Marxist-Maoist organization" GRAPO, sort of the Spanish version of the Red Brigades. They've been killing people since 1975, though not nearly as often as ETA. Two of those arrested murdered the wife of a Zaragoza businessman in February 2006, the gang's last killing. The other four were infrastructure, running safe houses and the like. This was apparently GRAPO's last operative cell. The leadership was arrested in June 2006 in Reus, and they ratted out this last bunch; one of them personally led the cops to the GRAPO safe house where the bust was made. The Guardia Civil says there may be more arrests, and that they have evidence that will solve several bank robberies.
Goodbye GRAPO and good riddance.
La Vanguardia's worst columnist, Baltasar Porcel, was awarded something called the Premi d'Honor de les Lletres Catalanes, which is passed out by an Catalanist organization called Ómnium Cultural. This guy is Earth's most boring novelist and least astute political commentator. He's getting old, though, and he just went through a bout of cancer, so we suppose this will make him happy in his twilight years without really hurting anyone else. A couple of people might actually be encouraged to read one of his books, but the damage will likely be minimal because no one has actually gotten beyond page 38 in any of them.
Past Porcel posts here.
Yesterday evening the Catalan police, the Mossos d'Esquadra ("Boys of the Squad") held a big old demo in downtown Barcelona, about 4000 strong, demanding that Communist interior counselor Joan Saura, in charge of the regional cops, resign. The Squad Boys say that they're demoralized and feel discredited, and that it's Saura's fault. Yeah, Saura is a dope and couldn't manage an ice cream stand; he's still a Commie, for Christ's sake. But the problems in the Mossos go back much farther than Saura's term in office, and Saura wasn't the guy who told the Mossos to beat up the Russian woman or not restrain the gypsy kid who jumped out of the squad car. I'm generally pro-law and order, but the Mossos have not looked at all good recently and they've got no one to blame but themselves.