Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, of the socialist PSOE, will pardon nine prominent separatists from Catalonia. Speaking at a meeting in Barcelona on the relationship between the Catalan region and the national government, Sánchez said the decision would be formally taken in the Council of Ministers on Tuesday.
The nine separatists are jailed for their role in the 2017 attempt to secede Catalonia from Spain, when an illegal referendum was held on Catalonia's independence. In that referendum, 92 percent of voters had voted for independence, which may seem like a very large mandate, and the Catalan government, then headed by President Carles Puigdemont, also saw this as justifying their declaration of independence. But turnout was only 43 percent, so there is no majority for either option among Catalan voters.
Anti-independence parties such as the PP and PSOE called for the boycott of the referendum, which had been declared illegal by the Spanish constitutional court, and the Guardia Civil cracked down on those who still went to the polls to express their views.
Leaders from the then Catalan government have since been convicted of high treason by Spanish judges. For violating the Spanish Constitution in their attempt to secede Catalonia, the Spanish Constitution states that Spain cannot be divided.
Catalan President Pere Aragonès has responded to Prime Minister Sánchez's action, Aragonès says the pardon is 'not a solution' to the political conflict. Although the President calls it a “step on the path of dialogue” but an “incomplete and insufficient” step.
Opposition strikes back
The leader of the opposition, conservative Popular Party leader Pablo Casado, hit back hard against the socialist prime minister's action.
In his speech to deputies and senators, Pablo Casado rejected pardons as a measure of harmony between the Catalans and the Spaniards, one of the arguments Pedro Sánchez used to justify them.
“Spain knows how to forgive, but it knows when to forgive and when to defend itself. So do we and we say that it is now time for the defense of Spain. We will never allow anyone to destroy it to stay in power.” – Pablo Casado
In his opinion, the prime minister wants “the PP” and what it represents “to cease to exist”. “And Sánchez needs the Catalan separatists so that the PP ceases to exist. That's the pact of trap pardons," he continued.
Pablo Casado has gathered his senators and deputies in Congress to tackle pardoning the leaders of the illegal referendum, a grace measure that will be approved in the cabinet this Tuesday, as confirmed by Pedro Sánchez this morning. The Conservative leader has denounced the "pressure" on his party but has asked his to stay strong because the PP is "not the problem", but "the solution". He sees Sánchez imposing an "extravagant and suicidal agenda" on the Spaniards and promoting "disloyalty to the system" and "disarming the state" with several "deadly initiatives" for Spain's future, including reforming the crime of sedition and means rebellion.
The leader of the conservative VOX has hit back hard on Twitter:
“The spirit of the Constitution is the foundation, that is, the “inseparable unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards”
To weaken that unity by pardoning the coup plotters is to trample the Constitution and, worse still, betray Spain.
Sánchez needs the separatists
In 2019, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez promised that the Catalan politicians who were convicted will have to serve their sentences, but now he is turning 180 degrees. As it turns out, Sánchez needs the support of the separatists to remain prime minister. Pedro Sánchez currently has a minority government, and he needs to get a budget through it.
It appears that the budget cannot pass without the support of the Catalan separatists in the Spanish parliament. He also needs support for other major themes, because the opposition will not support them in any way.
With this move, he hopes to buy the support of the Catalan separatists to continue leading his government. But whether this result will become reality remains to be seen.