On September 14, 2000, ETA attempted to murder Jose Ramón Recalde. A terrorist, armed with a gun, was waiting for him at the door of his home and shot him through the mouth. Fourteen days after the attack, he was discharged from hospital but, even today, he continues to suffer from swelling in the mouth and has trouble speaking.


Name: Jose Ramon Recalde Diez

Age: 81 (1930)

Profession / Position: Professor of Law at a business school and a practicing attorney. / He was a member of the Basque Government as Minister of Education, Universities and Research (1987-1991) and Minister of Justice (1991-1995).

Family status: Married. Four children.

Place of origin: San Sebastian (Gipuzkoa)

GROUP: Politicians.


- On September 14, 2000, ETA attempted to murder Jose Ramón Recalde. A terrorist, armed with a gun, was waiting for him at the door of his home and shot him through the mouth. Fourteen days after the attack, he was discharged from hospital but, even today, he continues to suffer from swelling in the mouth and has trouble speaking.

- In addition to the attack, Jose Ramón Recalde has been threatened on numerous occasions in the form of messages painted on walls and attacks against the bookshop run by his wife, Maria Teresa Castells.


“I’ve never had a quiet life. First I was in prison for fighting against Franco’s dictatorship, where I was abused and tortured. Then, after the advent of democracy, as a member of the Basque Government, I have always needed a certain level of protection due to the threat of ETA. All this came to a head when I was attacked on 14th September 2000. They shot me in the mouth, just outside my house, when I was returning with my wife from her workplace, the bookstore she owned. Since then I have needed protection and a greater level of surveillance”.

“When I joined the Basque Government, I was aware that I was under surveillance. It was a type of surveillance that was expected, not because I felt I was being observed. Although the attack was not unexpected, it was a surprise. It’s something you’re not expecting, but that you know may happen. Four of my friends and colleagues were killed that year: Fernando Buesa, Juan Mari Jauregi, Ernest Lluch and José Luis López de Lacalle. It was a bad year”.

“When I was attacked, I was no longer a member of the Basque Government. I was a professor emeritus at the School of Business where I gave some classes. After the attack, I had to retire. You could say that I was forced to retire”.

“As a member of the government, I had an official car with an escort, but it was not round the clock. It was just to get to and from government. I got the permanent escort after the attack. Perhaps, they could have calculated my level of risk in advance; as I didn’t. But that’s how it happened; from leading a relatively comfortable life to having one that is far more oppressive. However, I must say that I have nothing against the bodyguards, because I have a friendly relationship with them and my wife and I have even been to the home of one of them in Galicia”.

“From time to time we would receive a slightly censorious report from the Regional Minister of the Interior because they knew that the car with the escort would leave us at home and then we would go out for a walk. We didn’t have a 24/7 escort service. Consequently, this level of protection did not affect my personal life; it was something that came with the job, as a member of the Basque Government. It’s not like that now. I still have bodyguards, but now I have to call them if I want to go anywhere. And I do. Some didn’t and things went wrong; like a socialist councillor from the city council of Orio. Sometimes, after his bodyguard had left, he would go down to play cards or have a coffee with friends. The murderers found out about it and killed him”.

“When they attacked me, I had no protection, because I no longer needed it once I had left the government. It happened that the day of the attack I had gone to meet my wife at the bookstore where she worked. I went up the stairs that lead to the entrance to my house and when we reached the door, I came face to face with a black hole that was the barrel of a gun. Then, the first thing I felt was the shot. I shielded my wife, among other things, to protect her”.

“My wife asked me what had happened. Despite being shot in the mouth, I was still able to talk for several hours and I told her it had been a shot. She didn’t know who had been shot and I told her I had. Even after being shot in the mouth, I went upstairs to the first floor, where my flat is, and told my wife the phone number she had to call and then to let my children know. It was then that it occurred to me that I could die. My wife realised and told me that nobody dies from a shot in the mouth. In spite of all the misfortune, I was lucky because some people do die from a shot in the mouth”.

“The person who shot me only shot once and then disappeared. That was unusual. They usually finished you off. I didn’t see him but, apparently, I’ve been told, someone has been arrested but I can’t remember the name. They said it could have been a rookie and, therefore, he lost his nerve after firing”.

“My wife also has another theory. We had a small dog that was an “anti-guard’ dog, because it never barked at the neighbours, it only barked when we came home, to welcome us. Whoever shot me was waiting for me and, apparently, the dog hadn’t barked. When we arrived, it started barking; just when I was shot. The unsuccessful murderer was probably startled and, therefore, left in a hurry”.

“Due to the attack, my jaw was smashed and my tongue was affected to the point that, even today, I cannot speak normally. That’s one of the consequences of the attack. Another is that, almost every month, once or twice a month, my lower jaw and gums swell. Apparently, the operation was very serious, although I didn’t know at the time”.

“Although I was about to retire and I had to retire because of the attack, I have continued to write for newspapers, I have given a few conferences despite the difficulty I have talking and I have participated in collaborative actions in favour of democracy”.

“Besides the attack, I have also gone through other violent situations, for example, at the bookstore my wife used to run with another partner. There were lots of attacks. The bookshop’s story is a little like my own: originally it sided against Franco and then it has been attacked by ETA. Against Franco, my wife even promoted strike pickets, which were single-person pickets at times because other people would back-out and leave her alone to go to the shops in the Old Quarters of San Sebastian, even to ask them to close because they were going to execute two people for belonging to ETA  (Txiki and Otaegui). We were against Franco and, of course, also against the death penalty. In those days, the bookshop was attacked by right-wing groups who used to throw stones at the windows. But none of that compares to the attacks ETA organised against the bookshop”.

“I think it was 1996, from Christmas Day to San Sebastián Day (January 20) there were 20 attacks that resulted in broken windows, paint thrown over books, piles of books were burnt… Even now, when it seems that ETA has finally been defeated primarily by our democratic state; less than a year ago someone painted a target and a death threat on the shop window, which read: RIP Jose Ramon Recalde. It seems that some have not forgotten”.

“I know there have been some sociological studies in which many people declare they would not like to have politicians who have been attacked and who need bodyguards as neighbours. That hasn’t been my case. The reaction has been good and I also feel a lot of affection for them. I do feel a bit oppressed by having to be escorted everywhere, but that’s all”.

“I haven’t changed and I have never been afraid. I have not become reconciled with the criminals who shot me. Nor do I really want to know who they are. I try to keep ETA out of my life, but I think the ETA problem is very serious for Spain and the Basque Country and, therefore, we must start thinking about when this criminal gang will definitely disappear. On the other hand, from a personal standpoint, I am not indifferent to it, but I keep it at a certain distance”.

“I have taken into account that I could be attacked again, but I am not expecting it to happen. It’s the same as before, when I calculated that it could happen but did not expect it to happen”.

“The support from society after the attack was quite widespread. They told me there was a large demonstration in San Sebastian in which my wife and my children and many thousands of people participated. It was an act that generated a great level of rejection”.

“A few months ago, they told me the case had been reopened because there is new evidence incriminating three members of the band. I can’t remember the name of the person who shot me. If I looked it up I could find out, but I don’t want to. According to the indictment, the commando was led by ‘Txapote’”.

“The reason I think they decided to attack me was because I had been a member of the Basque Government, because I was a socialist politician and because I had always written against violence, in spite of the fact that I had defended those who could be sentenced to death under the Franco regime for violent acts. When they attacked me in 2000, my political career was already over. My biography seemed already quite full. Apparently there had to be an important climax”.