Blaming the Victims in Spain: M-11, ETA and the Socialists

MADRID, Spain -- How many people spilled through the streets of Madrid on Feb. 3, marching alongside relatives of Spain's terrorism victims, as they protested concessions the government appears prepared to make in order to re-engage the Basque separatist group ETA in a no-fault "peace process"? Well, there were either 1.5 million or 181,200 people taking part, depending on whose police force you want to believe.

That latter figure is courtesy of Spain's National Police, which is controlled by Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Interior Ministry. The claim of 1.5 million is from the Foro de Ermua, the group that organized the march, and was validated by Madrid's municipal police force. Both the municipal and greater Madrid regional governments are controlled by the opposition Popular Party. An unbridgeable chasm of irreconcilable numbers has become a recurring footnote to the demonstrations that are increasingly edging out parliament as the main venue for political discourse in Spain.

The February demonstration followed one on Nov. 25, 2006, organized by the Association of Victims of Terrorism (AVT), another group holding an unfavorable view of Zapatero's obsession with engineering a Spanish Stormont. It was the fifth time the AVT had taken to the streets since just before ETA's leadership announced the previous March an indefinite truce as a prelude to talks on "superseding the conflict" in the Basque Country. When the demonstration was over, Madrid police certified a turnout of 1.3 million while the central government's delegate for Madrid counted 129,715.

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