Right-wing officials in Spain joined a mass rally in Barcelona on Sunday to protest plans to grant Catalan separatists an amnesty in exchange for their political support for a new left-wing government.
Thousands of people, many waving Spanish and Catalan flags or signs saying “No Amnesty!”, flooded into the city centre for the rally called by Societat Civil Catalana (SCC), a civil society group opposed to the region breaking away from Spain, an AFP correspondent said.
The protest was called over acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s plan to offer an amnesty to Catalan separatists facing legal action over the 2017 independence bid in exchange for their support so he can resume his role as premier, which has been up in the air since Spain’s inconclusive summer election.
The proposal has drawn a furious response from the right and the far-right in Spain, as well as from some within Sanchez’s own Socialist party, who say an amnesty cannot be used as a bargaining chip for him to remain in power.
“Offering an amnesty in exchange for political favors” is an “unconstitutional aberration”, SCC leader Elda Mata said, adding that she hoped the mass show of opposition would put the brakes on Sanchez’s plans.
Barcelona’s Guardia Urbana police said more than 50,000 people had joined the rally, while organizers gave a figure of 300,000.
Top right-wing figures were prominent at the march including opposition leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo, whose Popular Party won the July election but did not have the backing to form a government, despite an alliance with the far-right Vox, whose leader Santiago Abascal also attended the rally.
“This is not an amnesty that seeks reconciliation, it is exclusively aimed at getting into the prime minister’s office,” Feijoo said ahead of the march.
“It’s unacceptable that politicians should break the law, some to reach the prime minister’s office despite losing the election, and others to settle their debt with the law. This an abuse of power which is unbecoming of a democracy,” he said.
Abascal denounced the plan as “an assault on the Constitution”, accusing Sanchez of carrying out “real abuses” in order to stay in power.
Sanchez’s Socialists came second in July’s election and to be reinstated as premier he must pass a key parliamentary vote for which he needs the backing of seven lawmakers from a hardline Catalan separatist party that has demanded the amnesty.
Araceli Rodriguez, a 53-year-old university lecturer at the demonstration, told AFP she was “absolutely against” an amnesty because it would be akin to whitewashing the failed 2017 independence bid, which sparked Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.
“What you cannot do is to sell out Spanish democracy on the strength of only seven votes, that’s the problem,” she said. “Approving an amnesty is selling out Spanish democracy for the partisan interests of a party that didn’t even win the election.”
©️ Agence France-Presse