Opposition urges Sánchez to clamp down in Catalonia

Wave of protests against sedition convictions for independence leaders continues

Demonstrators participate in a sit-in in Barcelona on Wednesday during a demonstration called by the local Republic Defence Committees. Photograph: Lluis Gene/AFP/Getty Images

Demonstrators participate in a sit-in in Barcelona on Wednesday during a demonstration called by the local Republic Defence Committees. Photograph: Lluis Gene/AFP/Getty Images

 

The Spanish government is under pressure from opposition parties to introduce direct rule in Catalonia, as the region saw a third consecutive day of demonstrations against a controversial supreme court verdict.

Government sources were reported as saying that acting prime minister Pedro Sánchez “does not rule out any scenario” in managing the current crisis. Among the options available to him is the introduction of direct rule, which was previously in place in Catalonia for several months until mid-2018.

The opposition Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos, both on the right, have been urging the government to use emergency measures in the region. On Wednesday, the leaders of both parties again called on Mr Sánchez to begin taking steps to do so.

However, the government has ruled out taking any such action at the moment. Meanwhile, Podemos, a unionist party to its left, has expressed outright opposition to such measures.

“The penal code and direct rule cannot solve the Catalonia problem,” said Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias.

On Monday, the supreme court convicted nine independence leaders for sedition and gave them jail terms of between nine and 13 years, triggering a wave of unrest by pro-independence Catalans, with some violent scenes. On Wednesday, demonstrators again took to the streets in central Barcelona and other cities.

Protest marches

Meanwhile, people taking part in five protest marches set off from different points in Catalonia and are due to arrive in Barcelona on Friday, when a general strike has been scheduled in the region.

On Tuesday night, Mr Sánchez said his government would “guarantee security” in the region in the context of violent scenes this week, which have seen protesters clash with Catalan police, causing several dozen injuries.

The Catalan interior minister, Miquel Buch, said a small minority was responsible for such incidents.

“We cannot allow undesired incidents to damage the image of thousands of people who demonstrate in a civic way and without incidents,” he said.

Having voiced support for the protests, Catalan president Quim Torra has been facing calls to condemn the violence of recent days, something which his eight jailed colleagues have done.

Although he did not refer to this week’s events, Mr Torra, who spent much of the day taking part in the protest marches, did write on Twitter that “violence does not represent us”.

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera said Mr Torra’s failure to condemn the demonstrators made him unfit for office.

“A decent country like Spain should make sure the law is respected,” he said. “We have to protect Catalans because we cannot have a suicide driver in charge of the Catalan government, we cannot have the despicable Torra . . . who applauds those who are violent while putting himself at their head.”

Mr Rivera and party colleagues were escorted from a political meeting in Barcelona on Wednesday after demonstrators blockaded them inside.

Meanwhile, the venue of the next so-called clásico football match between Barcelona and Real Madrid is in doubt. The two teams were due to meet on October 26th in Barcelona, but the Spanish league has asked the national federation to move the game to Madrid because of the current unrest.