Thousands of people, mainly from the ranks of far-right group Vox, took to the streets of Madrid on Sunday to protest government’s backing of amnesty for Catalan separatists, a measure they claim conflicts with upholding the country’s rule of law.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Saturday said he was in favor of the controversial amnesty toward those involved in Catalonia’s failed 2017 independence bid. Sánchez, of the Socialist Party (PSOE), argued that the time was ripe for Catalonia to undergo a “total reunion,” noting how a 2021 pardon of high-ranking separatists had been instrumental in easing divisions within the country.
“Overcoming definitively the conflict would require other measures in the future because we can’t leave this wound open indefinitely,” Sánchez told party members on Saturday.
Sánchez said the move was the “only way” to persuade Catalonia’s parties, such as ERC and JxCat, to endorse him in forming a new Spanish government, according to El Confidencial.
Many protesters feared the amnesty would mainly benefit JxCat leader Carles Puigdemont, who, as Catalan president in 2017, had led the region’s showdown with Madrid, going as far as to declare Catalan independence before pulling back. Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium to avoid prosecution in the wake of the failed independence bid, is considered by many right-leaning Spaniards an “enemy of the state.”
France 24 reported that protesters accused Sánchez of being willing to make pacts with those who want to “break up” Spain.
The amnesty is the latest attempt by Sánchez to garner support in parliament after July’s leadership contest failed to give Spain an obvious prime minister. Sánchez’s PSOE on Tuesday signed a coalition agreement with the far-left Sumar group, led by Yolanda Díaz, but the deal is not enough to secure the majority he needs to rule.