For the history of the three provinces up to 1936, see Basques. Shortly after the outbreak of civil war in 1936 the Spanish government granted the three provinces autonomy. The Basque nationalist leader, José Antonio de Aguirre, was elected president of the autonomous government, but a large part of its territory was soon in insurgent hands. The fighting was over by Sept., 1937, and the new Franco regime abolished Basque autonomy. Basque nationalism remained strong, however, and the region achieved autonomy again in 1979, electing its first parliament the following year. In its campaign for Basque self-determination, the militant Basque Homeland and Freedom (Euzkadi Ta Azkatasuna; ETA) mounted a terrorist campaign in which more than 850 people died; political parties linked to the ETA were repeatedly banned. A 1998–99 cease-fire by the ETA ended without a negotiated settlement. The regional government has sought even greater autonomy through political means. A plan for “free association” with Spain was passed by the region's parliament in 2004, but the plan was not approved by the Spanish Cortes. In Mar., 2006, the ETA announced a “permanent” cease-fire, and called for negotiations; the Spanish government agreed to talks three months later. A bombing in Dec., 2006, however, ended the chance for talks, and in June, 2007, the ETA ended its cease-fire. In Oct., 2007, the entire leadership of Batasuna, a party linked to the ETA, was arrested. In May, 2009, a regional government led by the Socialists took office; it was the first time since autonomy was restored that Basque Nationalists had not led the government. The ETA, under pressure from Basque separatist parties, announced a new truce in 2010, and then in 2011 said it had ended its armed campaign; it turned over arms stockpiles in 2017 and said it had disbanded in 2018. The Basque Nationalists won a plurality in the 2012 and 2016 regional elections.
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