Thou­sands in Madrid rally against Spain PM

Cat­alo­nia con­flict fuels calls for his res­ig­na­tion

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - WORLD - By Joseph Wil­son The As­so­ci­ated Press

BARCELONA, Spain — Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple ral­lied in Spain’s cap­i­tal Sun­day to de­mand that Prime Min­is­ter Pe­dro Sanchez 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 Pop­u­lar Party and the cen­ter-right Cit­i­zens party or­ga­nized the rally.

“The time of Sanchez’s govern­ment is over,” said Pablo Casado, pres­i­dent of the Pop­u­lar Party. He asked vot­ers to pun­ish the 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 2017.

Sanchez in­her­ited the Cata­lan con­flict from for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy, the then-leader of the Pop­u­lar Party. Ra­joy proved in­ca­pable of stop­ping sup­port for se­ces­sion from swelling in Cat­alo­nia to roughly half of the north­east­ern re­gion’s vot­ers.

Speak­ing at a So­cial­ist party event in north­ern Spain, Sanchez 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 Oc­to­ber 2017 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,” Sanchez said.

“The unity of Spain means unit­ing Spaniards and not con­fronting them as the right wing is do­ing in Plaza de Colon to­day,” he said.

Sanchez came to power in June promis­ing to thaw ten­sions be­tween cen­tral au­thor­i­ties in Madrid and the Cata­lan lead­ers in Barcelona. He met twice with Cata­lan chief Quim Torra.

Sanchez had said he would be will­ing to help Cata­lan law­mak­ers agree to a new Char­ter Law, which de­ter­mines the amount of self-rule the re­gion en­joys.

But his govern­ment broke off ne­go­ti­a­tions on Fri­day.

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