Spain reacted with relief and bitterness Friday to Basque separatist group ETA's historic declaration of an end to more than 40 years of bombing and shooting.
The dramatic video announcement by three white-hooded ETA militants brought an end to a campaign that claimed 829 lives since its birth in 1959 during General Francisco Franco's dictatorship.
Spanish leaders and civilians alike welcomed the news but stayed on guard since the group said nothing about handing over its weapons or disbanding and reached out for dialogue with the government.
The leader of the Basque regional government, Patxi Lopez, said his bodyguards hugged him when they heard the news.
"We have to discuss how we will open this new period. I plan to speak today with the parties of the Basque Country to start to open this political period," he told Cadena Ser radio.
"We have to be very cautious, 40 years of terrorism cannot be brought to an end in a few urgent hours."
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero called the declaration "a victory for democracy, law and reason," but recalled the victims of the violence.
Opposition leader Mariano Rajoy, widely expected to be elected Spain's new leader in November 20 general elections, said it was "an important step, but the peace of mind of Spaniards will only be complete when ETA is irreversibly dissolved and completely disbanded."
In the chilly streets of the Basque city of San Sebastian, locals reacted with joy but also caution.
"This is a great day for Euskadi. Peace, peace for Euskadi," said Edurne Azpiri Garitonandia, 80, using the Basque name for the region.
"There are lots of people here who used to have to go round with bodyguards. This announcement could not have been better."
Pensioner Martin Marticorena was more guarded.
"In principle it is good but it comes with conditions," he said. "They have not given up their arms and the people announcing peace were wearing hoods."
Many in Spain, including analysts, much of the press and victims, showed deep distrust and even disgust at ETA's failure to apologise or offer to surrender arms, and its demand for political talks.
"We are disappointed because this is not the last step," said Maria del Mar Blanco, a lawmaker with Rajoy's conservative Popular Party in the Basque regional assembly, whose brother was killed by the Basque separatist group.
"The terrorist group ETA must still definitively end," Blanco told AFP.
"The cruelty of the fight has taken away the lives of many comrades. Many others are still suffering in prison and in exile," it said.
It called on the Spanish and French governments to open direct dialogue with the aim of "addressing the resolution of the consequences of the conflict and, thus, to overcome the armed confrontation".
Florencio Dominguez, editor-in-chief of the Bilbao-based news agency Vasco Press and an ETA expert, said one could now assume ETA's violent days were over, but there were still doubts over their demands.
"What are they going to negotiate? Freedom for all their prisoners? That cannot be, they have caused too much pain," Dominguez said.
ETA would have trouble with the police if it failed to hand over its arms, Dominguez added.
Newspapers welcomed the declared end to the armed struggle but also found much to criticise.
"There is no guarantee that we won't move from this 'definitive cessation' to the resumption of attacks if ETA's goals from this negotiation are not satisfied," said the right-of-centre daily El Mundo.
Centre-left daily El Pais's editorial stated more optimistically: "Full stop to the nightmare. Democracy ended up triumphing over a band of fanatics who sowed terror."
Jose Luis Orella, a historian at Madrid CEU University, said ETA's commanders may reinvent themselves as politicians in the Basque country, where separatist parties beat the ruling Socialists in municipal elections in May.
"They have shifted to a different front," he said. "Violence is being abandoned and they are moving to the electoral fight."
Source: AFP Global Edition