Sánchez Cleans Up Mess Conservatives Made in Catalonia
The right used an antiquated sedition law to persecute Catalan separatists.
Spain’s ruling left-wing parties have abolished the crimes for which Catalonia’s independence leaders were imprisoned — and the right has gone berserk. Conservative deputies called the penal reforms an “assault on democracy”. The far right called Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez a “traitor”. (They do so frequently.)
When the reforms came to a vote in Congress, members of the conservative People’s Party (PP) sat on their hands. The center-right Citizens and far-right Vox (Voice) walked out in protest. So much for their commitment to democracy.
Indeed, it was the PP’s disinterest in Catalan democracy that culminated in the imprisonment of half the Catalan government and the suspension of Catalan home rule. Sánchez is doing little more than clean up the mess they made.
Assault on democracy
After the last Socialist prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, negotiated an autonomy statute with Catalonia in 2006, his conservative successor, Mariano Rajoy, delayed the devolution of powers.
When a majority of Catalans told pollsters they would rather break away from Spain than live under Rajoy’s austerity government, the PP leader refused to even meet with Catalan leaders, much less discuss giving the region more autonomy.
80 percent of Catalans wanted a referendum on independence. The PP refused. It appealed to the Constitutional Court, whose PP-appointed majority agreed a referendum would be illegal.
When Catalans voted anyway, Rajoy sent in riot police to beat up voters and break up polling places. He revoked Catalonia’s self-government for the first time in Spain’s democratic history and tried to arrest the entire Catalan cabinet for disobedience. Several of its members, including regional president Carles Puigdemont, fled the country.
The leaders who remained were jailed and sentenced to between nine and thirteen years in prison for sedition and misuse of public funds.
The crimes Sánchez would change
It are those crimes Sánchez and his left-wing coalition partner Podemos (We Can) would change.
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