Thousands join right-wing rally
Tensions rising ahead of trial for Catalan separatists
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.
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.