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Protests turn ugly as pressure mounts on Spain over amnesty talks with Catalans
7 November 2023, 11:04
Three people were arrested during a gathering of more than 3,000 people in front of the national headquarters of Spain’s Socialist Party in Madrid.
Three people were arrested late on Monday in a protest against negotiations between Spain’s acting government and Catalan separatist parties over a possible amnesty for thousands involved in Catalonia’s independence movement.
Government authorities said the arrests took place during a gathering of more than 3,000 people in front of the national headquarters of Spain’s Socialist Party in Madrid.
Two men were arrested for violent behaviour against police, and one woman for disobedience, the representative of Spain’s national government in the region said.
The leader of the far-right Vox party, which holds the third highest number of seats in the national Parliament, was at the rally.
Several protesters waved Spanish flags and pushed back against police in riot gear.
There were similar protests in other Spanish cities, but no additional arrests were reported.
Spain’s acting Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, the Socialists’ leader, condemned the protests, saying they are being led by “reactionaries”.
“(I extend) all my warmth and support for the Socialist Party members who are suffering harassment by reactionaries at their local headquarters,” he wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
“To attack the headquarters of Spain’s Socialist Party is to attack democracy.”
Mr Sanchez is negotiating with the Catalan separatist parties to receive their backing in his bid to form a new government and keep his centre-left coalition in power following an inconclusive national election in July.
But the two separatist parties have demanded a sweeping amnesty that would include their leaders who fled Spain following their failed 2017 secession attempt, in exchange for their votes in Parliament, among other concessions.
That has angered many in Spain, including leading opposition parties on the right who accuse Mr Sanchez of bending to lawbreakers.
Spain’s conservative Popular Party, the main opposition party, has called for its own protest against the amnesty negotiations for Sunday, in public squares in each provincial capital.
Party leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo said: “I am not going to allow that my country has to ask forgiveness to those who attacked its institutions.”
There have been other protests in recent weeks, but they remained peaceful.
Mr Sanchez has until November 27 to form a new government or Parliament will be automatically dissolved and new elections called for January.
Despite losing steam in recent years, Catalonia’s separatist movement retains strong support in the wealthy north-east region, including control of the regional government.