In a display of deep-rooted divisions and conflicting ideologies, tens of thousands of Spaniards took to the streets of Madrid on Sunday to voice their opposition to the potential amnesty for Catalan separatists proposed by acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. The rally, organized by supporters of the opposition conservative People’s Party (PP), drew attendees from all corners of the country.
The sizeable crowd, estimated at 40,000 by authorities, waved Spanish flags as a symbol of their solidarity and determination to protect the unity of the nation. The protest was a direct response to the potential alliance between Sanchez and exiled former Catalonia leader Carles Puigdemont. If Sanchez secures the support of Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya party, he could remain in office despite failing to win the election.
The demands of Puigdemont and his separatist allies, including the withdrawal of criminal charges against fellow separatists, serves as a bargaining chip for their support. However, this proposal is met with strong resistance from Alberto Nunez Feijoo, leader of the People’s Party, who vehemently opposes any form of amnesty for organizers of the 2017 illegal independence referendum in Catalonia. Feijoo argues that such a move would effectively condone the actions of those who sought to undermine the constitutional order.
One protester, 72-year-old pensioner Gregorio Casteneda, traveled from the north coast of Spain to demonstrate his opposition to the potential amnesty. He expressed concerns about the deepening divisions within the country, which he believes would be exacerbated by such a decision. Casteneda’s sentiments echo the fears of many who view any amnesty as a political disaster that would further fracture the Spanish nation.
Meanwhile, in a separate political rally held in Gava near Barcelona, Sanchez avoided direct mention of the amnesty proposal. Instead, he emphasized the Socialists’ commitment to healing the social divisions that have been amplified by the Catalan crisis. His party, seeking to turn the page on this tumultuous chapter, aims to repair the damage caused and restore unity.
It is worth noting that Sanchez had previously granted pardons to nine separatist leaders in 2021, an act that stirred controversy and sparked debates on the proper course of action. This previous decision has set a precedent and fueled arguments both for and against amnesty.
As Spain approaches a critical juncture, with Feijoo scheduled to make his bid for the prime ministerial role on September 27, the political landscape remains uncertain. Feijoo’s chances of success are slim, considering the People’s Party’s staunch opposition to any concessions for the separatists. In the event of Feijoo’s failure, Sanchez will have another opportunity to gauge his support base and attempt to secure his position.
Ultimately, the question of amnesty for Catalan separatists remains a deeply polarizing issue in Spain. With passionate voices on both sides, the country finds itself at a crossroads, where decisions made today will significantly impact its future.