Sánchez’s agreement with the separatists of Catalonia generates unrest in Spain | ET REALITY

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez sealed a deal on Thursday to extend amnesty to Catalan separatists in exchange for their political support, which will likely allow him to remain in power, but caused turmoil across Spain, doubts in Europe and questions. on the stability of the country.

Sánchez, 51, who is currently acting as interim prime minister after inconclusive early elections he called in July, backed amnesties related to an illegal referendum that shook Spain in 2017 to receive critical support from the Junts party, which supports the independence. from Spain to the northern region of Catalonia.

With their support, Sánchez will likely avoid new elections, gain parliamentary support for another term as prime minister and solidify his place in the European Union as its standard-bearer for progressive politics.

But the proposed amnesties, something Sánchez had previously said he would never do, caused an uproar.

Earlier in the day, Sánchez’s allies, eager to avoid the appearance that the agreement had been reached by pure political calculation, tried to frame the proposal as instrumental in leaving behind a tense and violent period in Spanish history.

It was “a historic opportunity to resolve a conflict that could only (and should) be resolved politically,” Santos Cerdán, a senior negotiator for the Socialist Party, who had carried out traveling diplomatic activities between Madrid and the separatist exiles in Brussels, said after the agreement. . It was announced. “Our goal is to pave the way for a legislature that allows us to progress and build an open, modern society and a better country.”

The deal potentially marks a notable reversal of political fortunes for Sánchez, who has made a career of bold and risky bets but appeared on the brink of a political abyss after his party took a drubbing in local and regional elections. In May.

But Junts is not a reliable partner and has already made it clear that it will continue to try to obtain concessions in exchange for its support in close votes in Parliament.

The agreement and violence come after thousands of protesters angrily surrounded the Socialist Party headquarters in Madrid in recent days and called on Sánchez not to reach a deal with the separatists, whom many conservatives consider an existential threat to the Spanish nation.

The conservative Popular Party, which was expected to win elections over the summer but failed to win enough votes to form a government, has called for large demonstrations in Spain’s main cities on Sunday.

It is about “privileging a minority to the detriment of a majority and ending the equality between Spaniards that is enshrined in the Constitution,” said Alberto Núñez Feijóo, leader of the Popular Party, who said that Sánchez had clearly aligned himself with his enemies. of the State. “The humiliation to which Sánchez is subjecting our country is total.”

In Brussels, the European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, sent a letter to the Ministers of Justice and Presidency of Spain about the “serious concerns” raised by the amnesty proposal.

In the regional and local elections in May, Sánchez’s party took such a beating that he pulled the plug on his government and opted to test his chances with an early national election. He was expected to lose.

But while Sánchez did not win the July election, he and his progressive allies gained enough support to surprise favored conservative and far-right parties, depriving them of the parliamentary support needed to form a government.

Sánchez, who has served as prime minister since 2018, a position he won in a daring vote of confidence, instead had a narrow path to building a government, but he crossed the issue of Catalan independence, one of the thorniest and most tense in Spanish politics.

In 2017, leaders of the Catalan separatist movement sparked Spain’s biggest constitutional crisis in decades when they organized an independence referendum that Madrid called illegal.

After huge demonstrations in Barcelona and a tense national climate, the movement’s leaders resisted. Its leader, who at the time was president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, fled the country and has since remained in self-imposed exile in Belgium. His allies have faced convictions.

But on Thursday, Sánchez won the support of seven lawmakers from the Junts party that Puigdemont essentially leads, in exchange for the Socialist Party proposing a new law granting amnesty to him and everyone else in the failed independence referendum. The new law could affect many separatists who have been convicted or are currently facing trial for pro-independence activities.

Details of the deal have not yet been made public and it is expected to be proposed in the Spanish Parliament next week. The agreement was not a done deal and required more than two months of negotiations between Sánchez’s Socialist Party, his own more progressive allies and the Catalan and Basque independence movements that, despite a lackluster performance in the July elections, retained enough influence to force a deal.

Puigedemont said at a news conference in Brussels on Thursday that he would continue to support the cause of independence and welcomed the agreement, saying it took the issue out of the judiciary and returned it to the public sphere where it belonged.

“It is a way to return to politics,” he said, “what politics is.”

Rachel Chaundler contributed reports.

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