In a new book written by Jose Maria Aznar and published yesterday (“Eight years of government, a personal view of Spain”), the former Spanish president Mr. Aznar says his government’s success in fighting the armed Basque separatist group, ETA, may have led Spain to lower its guard against the threat of terrorism by Islamic extremists. Aznar’s government immediately blamed ETA for the March 11 train bombings, which took place just three days before Spain’s general election, and voters’ anger at how the government handled information in the hours after the attack contributed to the Popular Party’s electoral defeat.
This is the first time Aznar has admitted any failings during the crisis. Neither he nor his party have been prepared to listen to any criticism related to the way in which they handled the aftermath of the terrorist attack.
Infact, his admission comes only a week after the former Interior Minister, Angel Acebes, launched an extraordinary verbal assault against his successor, José Antonio Alsonso, in which he accused the new Interior Minister of being “miserable”, “incompetent”, “indecent”, “mean” and “vile”. Acebes was reacting to a declaration made by Alonso in which he said he believed that PP Government had shown a clear lack of political foresight prior to the 11-M terrorist attack. The Popular Party leader, Mariano Rajoy, wrote a letter to Zapatero, in which he underlined his party’s fury and indignation at Alonso’s comments.
There is no doubt that the last few months have probably been the worst ones of Jose Maria Aznar’s political career. He has been criticised at home and abroad for the way his party managed information immediately after the 11-M attacks, and he had to witness people’s fury at first hand when he was shouted at during the 12th March mass demonstration in Madrid held to condemn the attack, when he went to vote on election day, and even during the mass held to honour the victims of the train bombings infront of dozens of world leaders. In all his appearances on television since the elections, Aznar has been very serious and sombre, and he has found it difficult to raise a protocolary smile during the various power exchanging ceremonies which he has been required to attend over the past few weeks.
In his book’s epilogue, Aznar describes his version of events on 11th March, and refers to what he calls the recent formation of a “new party of hate” made of up “all those who have taken advantage of the situation to transmit hate, distill sectarianism and encourage the destruction of adversaries”
Aznar’s wife, Ana Botella, also presented a book recently called “Eight years in La Moncloa” (the official presidential residence).