The Anti-Terrorist Liberation Groups (GAL) were a terrorist group, made up of members of the security forces and hired mercenaries, who committed state crimes against people allegedly belonging to ETA or to its support structures. The GAL were active between 1983 and 1987; during which time they committed 27 murders, including enforced disappearances. During a subsequent judicial process, it was proven that their activities were financed through funds from the Spanish Ministry of the Interior of the first government of Felipe González (PSOE).
The GAL were created to respond from the very sewers of a “democratic” state to the murders of ETA. The theory was that, for each person killed by ETA, the GAL would sow terror by murdering someone related to the Basque refugees in the south of France (north of Euskal Herria). And if ETA only acted in the Spanish state, they would only act in the French state, in the department of the Atlantic Pyrenees, where the Spanish government located the so-called ETA “sanctuary”.
La colaboración con Francia
In addition to that, the GAL also sought to exert pressure on the French government to begin collaborating with Spain in the fight against ETA and not to grant political asylum. The fact is that the French administration believed that many of these Basque refugees were not terrorists, but were simply persecuted by the Spanish State for their ideas. The GAL, and those behind them, on the other hand, believed that all refugees without exception were terrorists, and that, if the tranquility of a French region were threatened as a result of such attacks, their government would, in the end, give in and begin to authorize deportations and extraditions.
That is what eventually happened, when the socialist François Mitterrand was forced to govern with a conservative parliamentary majority. Jacques Chirac and his officials from the Interior Ministry, Charles Pasqua and Robert Pandreau, were convinced of the controlling power behind the GALs, so they offered Felipe González and the Spanish Interior Minister José Barrionuevo a strategic agreement: “You bury the GAL and we will deliver you all ETA members you ask for.” The GAL disappeared a few months later, in 1987.
The importance of the separation of powers
True democracy resides in the separation of powers, and in respect for the law. Through the GAL, the government of Felipe González flagrantly violated these precepts: his government was at the same time police officer, a prosecutor, judge and executioner and its hand did not shake when, at the very least, allowing state crimes that are conceptually indistinguishable from the terrorism perpetrated by organized groups.