World

Open season on tourists

David Baird July 16 1979
World

Open season on tourists

David Baird July 16 1979

Open season on tourists

World

Spain

"Bombs?” Dr. Ron Smart dissected a club sandwich as he stretched out at the poolside, the Mediterranean glinting nearby, the sierras lost in the heat haze. “I’ve heard about them but I’ve no plans to rush home. It will have to get a lot worse before it frightens away the tourists.” Worse it already was. While the Kitch-

ener, Ontario, doctor and his family enjoyed their Spanish vacation last week, events elsewhere on the Costa del Sol were less tranquil.

Suddenly tourism—an industry that earned Spain $6.6 billion last year—was in the frontline of terrorism’s bloody struggle to crack the country’s fragile democratic structure. Gearing their campaign to the annual summer rush to the beaches, members of ETA—an extreme left-wing group seeking independence for the Basque region straddling the Spanish-French border—planted bombs all along the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Explosions rocked hotels and sent sunbathers scurrying for cover. Warning calls forced police to evacuate thousands of North American and European holidaymakers. A Belgian couple improving their tan near the jet-setters’ paradise of Marbella were hurt when a device went off near them.

Violence also spilled across the border into France, which has angered ETA by withdrawing political asylum for separatist guerrillas. A French Basque group machine-gunned the Puerto del Sol express train from Paris to Madrid, throwing sleeping passengers into a panic and prompting French authorities to dispatch extra police to the region.

Alarmed Spanish hoteliers were also demanding extra protection. The tourism industry, which last year drew 40 million visitors (including 175,000 Canadians), was already having to cope with soaring prices (Spanish gasoline went up to $3.70 a gallon last week), a revalued peseta and labor strife. And although initially the risk of bomb splinters in their paella did not appear to be discouraging tourists in signifi-

cant numbers—none of the Canadian travel agencies called by Maclean ’s last week was aware of any trouble—a sharp cutback in arrivals seemed likely if the scare campaign continued.

Undermining the economy, however, was only one facet of ETA’s attempts to sabotage the government’s moves to solve peacefully more moderate Basques’ demands for autonomy. Already this year it has assassinated 43 people out of a total terrorist toll of 80 (compared with the much more publicized figure of 37 Italian terrorist killings in the whole of 1978).

Its chief targets have been the police and the military—in a clear attempt to provoke a right-wing take-over. And following the May 25 killings of a general and two colonels, rightist leader Blas Pinar called for a national uprising by the armed forces. Pinar received a swift put-down from the new civil guard chief, General Pedro Fontenla: “We must have faith in victory under the command of the government.” But some officers are angry about Premier Adolfo Suárez’ plans to concede a sizable degree of self-determination to the Basque region and ETA, unwilling to accept anything less than full independence, is busy pushing up the national temperature. Last week, it also wounded its first member of parliament.

As for the tourist boom, there was another opportunity to dampen it this week when thousands of visitors flocked to Pamplona for the annual Running of the Bulls fiesta. Basques maintain the city should be included in their region and last year’s San Fermin festivities were abruptly halted when a youth died in street riots. This year strenuous efforts were made to keep politics out of what is billed as “the world’s biggest party.” But the odds were that not only bull’s blood would be spilt this time around. David Baird