The streets of Madrid filled with 170,000 angry protesters on Saturday amid the biggest demonstration yet against the government’s amnesty for Catalan separatists.
Forty-eight hours after Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez won a new term in office for his Left-wing coalition by cutting deals with Catalan pro-independence parties, protesters thronged around Madrid’s Cibeles Square. They reject a plan to offer the parties’ leaders amnesty for criminal cases related to their 2017 secession attempt.
Authorities put the number of protesters at around 170,000, although organisers claimed it was closer to a million.
Spain’s Right-wing opposition parties have vowed to continue the fight against Mr Sánchez’s amnesty.
“Democracy’s alarm bells are ringing,” Alberto Núñez Feijóo, leader of the main opposition Popular Party (PP), said on the sidelines of the rally.
He accused Mr Sánchez of “humiliating” and “deceiving” Spaniards by offering amnesty to the leaders of the 2017 attempt to break Catalonia away from Spain, having previously claimed he would never do so.
“Don’t build walls between Spaniards,” Mr Feijóo warned Mr Sánchez.
The leader of the far-Right Vox party, Santiago Abascal, spoke in stronger terms still during the protest, describing the deal as a “coup” that can be stopped.
Enemies of Spain
“The culmination of the coup that has already begun with Pedro Sánchez’s pact with all the enemies of Spain will come with the approval of the amnesty law,” said Mr Abascal.
He called on Mr Feijóo to cooperate on a plan to halt the deal, based on “sustained social mobilisation and a coordinated institutional response”.
The PP has a majority in the upper-house Senate but will only be able to delay the amnesty once the lower-house Congress passes it.
In Cibeles Square, demonstrators chanted “Not in my name!” and called for Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan president who led the illegal bid for independence before fleeing to Belgium, to be jailed.
Patxi López, parliamentary spokesman for Mr Sánchez’s Socialist Party, claimed that the opposition parties’ anger was not really over the amnesty but the fact that Spain’s parliament has again elected to support a progressive government.
“They do not accept that Pedro Sánchez is the prime minister of this country by legitimate and democratic means,” Mr López said.