Uneasy calm has returned to most of the Basque region of northern Spain after a general strike and five days of fighting between police and demonstrators in which at least four people died.
Uneasy calm has returned to most of the Basque region of northern Spain after a general strike and five days of fighting between police and demonstrators in which at least four people died. The trouble was sparked off by Basque demands for the release of all political prisoners -- some 27 Basques remain in jail after the March general amnesty in which 286 detainees were released.
SYNOPSIS: One of the four who died in the bitter clashes with police was Manuel Fuentes Mesa, a young worker from a village outside the Basque town of Bilbao. On Tuesday his friends, relatives neighbours and fellow villagers -- who believe the Civil Guard killed him -- gathered at the site of his death to pay their last respects.
Then the mourners, their ranks swelled by several hundred sympathiser, set off on the long march to the funeral service, and ultimately the cemetery. Police did not interfere in the march which was, strictly speaking, an illegal gathering. But after the days of real violence, police and the Civil Guard seemed content to allow a peaceful procession to remain that way.
While Mesa was being mourned with unashamed tears, a peace of sorts was returning to the region -- one of the most heavily industrialised in Spain. Trade union leaders, who originally backed the general strike, responded to a government appeal to call it off in case the violence it gathered sabotaged the general elections on June the 15th -- the nation's first free parliamentary elections for 41 years.
Most of the strikers obeyed the call. Although a policeman was killed in continuing sporadic clashes, for others it was a time to mourn.