NOS News•today, 5:04 PM•Amended today, 5:11 PM
In Madrid, 170,000 people took to the streets for a protest march against a controversial amnesty law that Socialist Prime Minister Sánchez agreed with Catalan separatist parties.
Holding signs with texts such as “Sánchez traitor” and “Don’t sell Spain” and waving Spanish flags, the demonstrators protested against the law, which they say threatens the rule of law and the separation of powers.
The demonstration is the largest in a series of protests against the law in cities across the country. Alberto Nuñes Feijóo, leader of the conservative Popular Party, and Santiago Abascal, leader of the right-wing radical party Vox, also attended the march, which was organized by citizen groups.
After the demonstration in the center of the capital, dozens of demonstrators walked to the Moncloa Palace, the prime minister’s residence. As far as we know, the demonstration went peacefully.
Sánchez was given a third four-year term in exchange for his agreement to the amnesty law. Catalan party leader Carles Puigdemont had demanded amnesty for himself and other separatists as a price for supporting the cabinet. They are being prosecuted in Spain for their role in the illegal referendum in 2017 on the independence of Catalonia. Some of them have already been convicted.
The intention is that the amnesty will apply to all criminal offenses since 2012 that are related to actions of the separatist movement. Parliament must approve the law. The agreed amnesty applies to approximately 400 people who broke the law in the struggle for independence.
Sánchez has defended the law, saying amnesty would help defuse tensions in Catalonia. But much of the country is against the law. Opponents fear that if the separatists are granted amnesty, they will eventually fight for an independent Catalonia again.
Sánchez is also accused of wanting to continue governing at all costs, and that is why he has entered into an agreement with the Catalan parties Junts per Catalunya and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), both of which are in favor of secession from Catalonia.
In Spain, a new government had to be formed after last summer’s elections, which Sánchez lost. The right-wing conservative Partido Popular emerged as the winner, but that party was unable to forge a coalition. As a result, the ball ended up in Sánchez’s hands.
He had to contact the Junts and the ERC to get enough seats. There was white smoke on Thursday and on Friday Sánchez was officially sworn in by the king.