Thou­sands join right-wing rally

Ten­sions ris­ing ahead of trial for Cata­lan sep­a­ratists

The Dallas Morning News - - Nation&world - By JOSEPH WIL­SON

BARCELONA, Spain — Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple joined a rightwing rally in Spain’s cap­i­tal Sun­day to de­mand that Prime Min­is­ter Pe­dro Sánchez step down for his han­dling of the Cat­alo­nia re­gion’s se­ces­sion cri­sis.

Many in the crowd as­sem­bled in Madrid’s Plaza de Colon waved the na­tional flag and chanted slo­gans in sup­port of Spain’s se­cu­rity forces along with call­ing for the So­cial­ist prime min­is­ter’s res­ig­na­tion.

The con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion Popu­ lar Party and the cen­ter­right Cit­i­zens Party or­ga­nized the rally, which the up­start far­right Vox party and other far­right par­ties backed.

“The time of Sánchez’s govern­ment is over,” Pop­u­lar Party pres­i­dent Pablo Casado said. He asked vot­ers to pun­ish Sánchez’s So­cial­ists in the Euro­pean, lo­cal and re­gional elec­tions in May.

The po­lit­i­cal ten­sions come as a highly sen­si­tive trial at Spain’s Supreme Court starts Tues­day for 12 Cata­lan sep­a­ratists who face charges, in­clud­ing re­bel­lion, for their roles in a failed se­ces­sion at­tempt in Oc­to­ber 2017.

Sánchez in­her­ited the Cata­lan con­flict from for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy, the then­leader of the Pop­u­lar Party.

Speak­ing at a So­cial­ist party event in north­ern Spain, Sánchez re­minded his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents that when he was an op­po­si­tion leader, he stood by Ra­joy on the sit­u­a­tion in Cat­alo­nia even af­ter separatist re­gional of­fi­cials staged an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum in de­fi­ance of Span­ish courts.

“And what I am do­ing now as prime min­is­ter, al­ways re­spect­ing the con­sti­tu­tion, is to solve a na­tional cri­sis to which the Pop­u­lar Party has con­trib­uted,” Sánchez said.

Sánchez came to power in June promis­ing to thaw ten­sions be­tween cen­tral au­thor­i­ties in Madrid and the Cata­lan lead­ers in Barcelona. He had said he would be will­ing to help Cata­lan law­mak­ers agree to a new Char­ter Law, but Sánchez’s govern­ment broke off ne­go­ti­a­tions on Fri­day, when Vice Pres­i­dent Car­men Calvo said the sep­a­ratists wouldn’t budge from their de­mand for an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum.

An­drea Co­mas/the As­so­ci­ated Press

Demon­stra­tors waved Span­ish flags dur­ing a protest in Madrid on Sun­day. Thou­sands at­tended the rally or­ga­nized by right­wing po­lit­i­cal par­ties to de­mand that So­cial­ist Prime Min­is­ter Pe­dro Sánchez step down.

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