Tuesday, 23 April, 2019

Thousands Protest in Madrid Against Spanish PM's Catalonia Proposal

Spain's PM Pedro Sanchez is facing opposition to his talks with Catalan separatist parties Spain's PM Pedro Sanchez is facing opposition to his talks with Catalan separatist parties
Jeannette Daniel | 12 February, 2019, 20:11

Thousands attend Madrid demo against Catalan independence.

Tens of thousands of people waving Spanish flags joined a rally on Sunday in Madrid called by right-wing and far-right parties against Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez over his negotiations with Catalan separatists.

The conservative opposition Popular Party and the center-right Citizens party organized the rally, which was also backed by the upstart far-right Vox and other marginal far-right parties.

The demonstrators gathered at the Plaza de Colon in the city centre under the slogan "For a united Spain, elections now!".

"The time of Mr Sanchez's government is over", said Popular Party president Pablo Casado, who asked voters to punish Mr Sanchez's Spanish Socialist Workers' Party in upcoming European, local and regional elections in May.

The protests lasted two days and preceded the trial of 12 Catalan separatist leaders who were charged with rebellion and misuse of public funds, after the independence referendum previous year which was deemed illegal by Madrid. Mr Rajoy proved incapable of stopping support for secession from swelling in Catalonia to roughly half of the region's voters.

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The last straw was the government's proposal to appoint a rapporteur in talks among political parties to address the Catalan issue, as the move was decried by the opposition as a "betrayal" of Spain.

"And what I am doing now as prime minister, always respecting the constitution, is to solve a national crisis to which the Popular Party has contributed", Sanchez said.

Mr Sanchez came to power in June promising to thaw tensions between central authorities in Madrid and the Catalan leaders in Barcelona. He has met twice with Catalan chief Quim Torra and members of both governments had several more encounters.

The opposition has called for early elections.

Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo however, said that the discussions between the government and separatists were likely to fail as pro-independence groups reject the proposed framework.

They are angered by Mr Sanchez's decision to take a more conciliatory tone with pro-independence parties, whose votes are crucial to the legislative agenda of his eight-month-old minority government, saying it amounts to "treason".

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