Spain commemorates the victims of the 11-M terrorist attacks

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the Madrid train bombings and Spain prepares for various events organised amidst the usual tension and disagreement which have become characteristic of political debate in Spain regarding Europe’s biggest ever terrorist attack.

One of the tragedies of the Madrid attacks and the aftermath has been the deterioration of reason, respect and relations in Spanish politics. Far from the united front presented by political forces in the aftermath of the 11-s terrorist attacks in the USA, the Madrid train bombings have divided Spanish parties seemingly to the point of no return.

One year on, the Popular Party is still unwilling to admit that its first hypothesis (i.e. that terrorist group ETA was to blame for the attacks) had little basis in the first instance, and lost more and more ground as investigations progressed. Members of the former PP government continue to blame their electoral defeat on the terrorist attacks rather than examine their own errors in the aftermath of the bombs (incidentally, a report in the Spanish press this morning says that Spanish police now suspect that the Islamic terrorists set the date of the train bombings in October 2003 according to new evidence found, long before the Spanish general election date was set.

If confirmed this will overturn the thesis that the attacks were intended to influence the election result).

This week the Popular Party refused to sign the outcome of the parliamentary commission set up to investigate events leading up to, during and after the terrorist attacks. The commission’s aim was to make proposals on how to avoid a similar attack in the future and how to learn lessons from this one.

The Popular Party alleges that since (in the opinion of its members) the identity of the person who personally led the attacks in Madrid has still not been discovered, then the commission should not have concluded its investigation.

All the other political parties allege that the commission’s role was not to lead a legal investigation which is being carried out by Spanish judiciary and police, but to draw from the evidence gathered during the commission and to offer proposals accordingly. The Commission was given a time limit which had already been extended, it was being used as a political platform from which to air grievances and throw accusations at political opponents, and it concluded its investigations after the appearance of ex-president Jose Maria Aznar, the appearance of Spanish president Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero before the 11-M Investigation Commission and the lesson taught to us all by Pilar Manjon, president of the Associations of 11-M Victims’ Families.

Today the Spanish Congress will pass a motion to condemn the terrorist attacks and remember the victims. The original plan was to hold a special session of congress tomorrow and pay homage to the victims, but the victims’ families asked for a much more low-key commemoration. The President of the European Parliament, Josep Borrell, will also read out a text in today’s European parliamentary session.

Tomorrow all of the bells of Madrid’s 650 churches will ring at the exact time at which the train bombs exploded, ruining hundreds of lives last year. The Association of Victims’ Families has protested at the initiative, saying they would much rather live the moment in the privacy of their homes in silence, and that their suffering will be made worse by the ringing of the bells.

Related links:
Spain’s worst day in years
Spain the day after
ETA denies involvement in Madrid bombing
Aznar accused of manipulated Spanish public opinion
Spain accused of “easing up” on the War against Terror