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THE WORLD; SPAIN; A Democratic Miracle That Stills Sets a Peaceful Standard
[Home Edition]
Los Angeles Times - Los Angeles, Calif.
Author: Meisler, Stanley
Date: Nov 19, 2000
Start Page: M.2
Section: Opinion; PART- M; Opinion Desk
Abstract (Document Summary)

That evening in the movie theater hallways served as a kind of metaphor for Spain at that moment in history. Not only did it demonstrate the enormous will of Spaniards for change, but the spirited laughter at old jokes, from a movie shelved for almost four decades, underscored how isolated Spain seemed in those days. Spain was a pariah in Europe, blackballed from pacts and markets. Spaniards feared that their reactionary army would strike down any tentative steps toward democracy.

The Basque problem is both depressing and infuriating. A little more than 2 million people, not all Basques, live in the three northern provinces that make up the Basque region. Powered by romantic chauvinism, the racism of their 19th-century nationalist guru and bitter resentment against their treatment by Madrid during the [Francisco Franco] era, the terrorist organization ETA (the initials in the Basque language for the slogan Basque Homeland and Freedom) uses terror as its main weapon in its campaign for independence from Spain. The Basques have far more autonomy than Scotland, but that isn't enough for ETA.

The smoothness of the transition can also be attributed to the rapid changes within Spain during the last 15 years of the Franco regime. Spain had become an urban, industrializing society in which Spaniards found better jobs than their fathers, and many Spaniards, including priests, questioned the rigidity of the Catholic hierarchy. New ideas seeped in from outside as many educated Spaniards wearied of being scorned as the outcasts of Europe. Soon after Franco died, a Spanish sociologist concluded, "We have a governable people who want to be well-governed."

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