Ahead of next month’s general election, Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez yesterday faced sharp criticism for his handling of violent Catalan separatist protests even as calm returned to Barcelona and other cities overnight.
The centre-right Ciudadanos party, which was born out of opposition to Catalan separatism, held a rally in front of Catalonia’s regional government headquarters in Barcelona under the slogan: “That’s enough! Justice and coexistence”.
“We have had enough of seeing how radicals roam freely and scare millions of Spaniards on their land. The streets belong to everyone,” Ciudadanos leader Alberto Rivera tweeted before the rally began.
He has called on Sanchez to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy just as the central government did in 2017 after the Catalan parliament declared independence following a banned secession referendum.
The streets of Barcelona and other Catalan cities have been rocked by protests since Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced nine separatist leaders, many of them former regional government ministers, last Monday to jail terms of up to 13 years for sedition over the failed 2017 independence bid.
Nearly 600 people have been injured in clashes with police since the protests started. A police officer was in “very serious condition” and a demonstrator was in “critical condition” according to Barcelona mayor Ada Colau.
In an interview published in top-selling daily newspaper El Pais, the leader of the main conservative opposition Popular Party (PP), Pablo Casado, accused the government of “pretending nothing has happened” and promising that everything will return to normal “with moderation”.