MADRID – Right-wing protesters took to the streets of Madrid on Sunday to denounce the controversial Spanish government plans to pardon the Catalan separatist prisons behind the failed 2017 independence bid.
The mass protests, scheduled for noon (1000 GMT), will increase pressure on Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who called for understanding on the planned gesture that has dominated the political debate for weeks and the controversy over Catalan separatism. reactivated.
“I understand there may be people who can object to this decision that the government can take, given what happened in 2017,” he said during an official visit to Argentina on Wednesday.
“But I ask for your trust. I ask for understanding and generosity, because the challenge we all face – to promote coexistence – is worth it.”
Although Sanchez’s left-wing government has said nothing concrete about this, all indications are that the pardon will be granted before the summer holidays.
But the proposal caused a major setback for the right-wing opposition, which accused the minority government of giving in under pressure from separatist parties, on whose support it depends in part.
“Sanchez plans to grant pardon to legitimize an ongoing crime … (in) a historic mistake that will solve nothing, only to stop his government from collapsing,” said opposition leader Pablo Casado, head of the right-wing Popular Party, said. (PP).
The Spanish Supreme Court has also opposed the fight against those found guilty in an illegal referendum and a short-lived declaration of independence, saying the detainees had “no evidence or remorse” for such a pardon. to justify.
The Supreme Court has convicted 12 Catalan separatists for their role in the crisis, with nine of them serving between nine and thirty years in prison in October 2019.
The prisoner serving the longest sentence of 13 years is Oriol Junqueras, head of the ERC (the Republican Left of Catalonia), who is a key parliamentary ally for Sanchez’s government.
In a letter published on Monday, Junqueras supported the idea of a pardon from Madrid after previously rejecting the idea out of hand, and also acknowledged that the separatists had made mistakes in 2017.
“We must be aware that our response has not been considered legitimate by any part of society,” he wrote.
He also expressed support for a Scottish referendum held in line with Spain – an option Madrid are unwilling to discuss.
“All separatist leaders are aware that this will be a very costly decision for the Socialists, as most Catalans are in favor of the pardon, but most Spaniards are against it,” said Ana Sofia Cardenal, a political scientist. Public University in Catalonia, said.
But hardliners, including the JxCat party of former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who fled Spain to avoid prosecution following the 2017 independence proposal, did not give up on one-sidedness and repeatedly demanded an amnesty for the prisoners – which is not on the table.
At Sunday’s rally, Spain’s right – wing opposition will seek to rally those who are still angry about the 2017 crisis under a huge Spanish flag in the Plaza de Colon (Columbus Square) in Madrid.
This was where thousands of people gathered in February 2019, two days before the start of the trial of the separatists.
Although organizers said no political leaders would be allowed on stage on Sunday, Cardenal said it would be a mistake for opposition leader Casado to even attend the rally.
“If this decision to grant a waiver succeeds in really sending (the Catalan crisis) to a dialogue, it could benefit Sanchez and harm Casado, who has committed himself to Vox over this,” he said, referring to the ultra -right faction. led by Santiago Abascal.