Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Wednesday said his government would pardon the nine jailed leaders of Catalonia’s failed 2017 independence.
According to Sanchez, this is in a bid toward ending the political conflict over the wealthy region.
Sanchez spoke in Barcelona’s opera house, while several hundred separatists protested outside, demanding still more concessions, and one member of the audience interrupted him for a few seconds shouting “Independence”.
In an event on Monday in the region’s main city attended by around 300 members of Catalan civil society, the prime minister said “I am convinced that getting these nine people out of prison is a clear message of concord.
“Catalonia, Catalans we love you,” Sanchez said in Catalan at the end of his address, with the Spanish, Catalan and EU flags behind him.’’
However, Sanchez is betting the time has now come for a political gamble that he hopes would ultimately cement his legacy, weaken the independence push and resolve the country’s biggest political crisis in decades.
“We don’t expect that those seeking independence will change their ideals, but we expect (they) understand there is no path outside the law,” Sanchez said at the event.
The cabinet’s next chance to rubber stamp the pardons comes at its meeting, which should lead to the separatists’ release from jail a few days later.
Sanchez aims to ease tensions in the northeastern region and kick-start negotiations between the central government and Catalan authorities.
“To reach an agreement, someone must make the first step. The Spanish government will make that first step now. The social cost of keeping the conflict simmering was too high.’’
Catalonia’s separatist head of government, Pere Aragones told Reuters that the pardons would be a welcome first gesture to start a dialogue.
Aragones, however, said he considered them insufficient, demanded an amnesty for all those involved in the 2017 events, which could benefit around 3,000 people. (Reuters/NAN)