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Spain: Parliament votes for amnesty in favor of Catalan separatists

The Spanish deputies have definitively adopted Thursday an amnesty law in favor of Catalan independentists, a highly controversial flagship measure of the left-wing government of Pedro Sánchez which will allow the return of independentists to exile since the abortive secession of 2017, like Carles Puigdemont.

At the end of a very tense final session of around two hours and in an electric atmosphere marked by insults, the amnesty law was approved by 177 votes to 172, the absolute majority being 176.

This vote by the Congress of Deputies, where Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has an absolute majority thanks to the support of the two Catalan independence parties, is the culmination of a long battle which dominated and radicalized Spanish political life since the elections last July.

The deputies had already adopted the amnesty bill on March 14, but the Senate, controlled by the right-wing opposition, vetoed it two months later, sending the text back to the lower house, which therefore had the last word.

The People's Party (PP), the main opposition party, and the far-right Vox party delivered a last stand before the vote, denouncing “political corruption”.

For their part, the two Catalan independence parties warned that this amnesty was not the end of their fight for independence, but a simple step.

– “Forgiveness more powerful than resentment” –

This vote is “a battle in the conflict that has existed for centuries between the two nations”, the Catalan and Spanish, declared the spokesperson for Carles Puigdemont's party (Together for Catalonia), Miriam Nogueras, referring to “a historic day”.

Spain: Parliament votes for amnesty in favor of Catalan separatists

The president of the Catalan separatist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, Oriol Junqueras (center) celebrates the final approval of the amnesty law for Catalan separatists, in Madrid, May 30, 2024 © AFP – JAVIER SORIANO

His counterpart Gabriel Rufián, of the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), the other Catalan independence party, warned that the “next stop” on the road to independence was the organization of a referendum.

Mr. Sánchez says the amnesty aims to end the instability born from the failed attempt by Catalonia (north-eastern Spain) to unilaterally proclaim its independence in October 2017, when the regional government was run by Mr. Puigdemont, who has since lived in exile.

“In politics as in life, forgiveness is more powerful than resentment”, commented Mr. Sánchez on the social network X. “Spain today is more prosperous and more united than in 2017,” he added. He did not attend the debate, entering the hemicycle just before the vote.

The regional government of Mr. Puigdemont organized, on October 1, 2017, a self-determination referendum, despite its ban by the courts.

Nearly a month later, the local parliament unilaterally declared the region's independence, immediately leading to its placement under supervision by the Spanish government and the dismissal of the local government.

The main separatist leaders were then incarcerated or had fled abroad.

These events had been one of the worst crises experienced by Spain since its return to democracy after the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975.

But this amnesty measure, which must benefit around 400 people – first and foremost Mr. Puigdemont – is above all the price that Mr. Sánchez had to pay to be returned to power in November.

The two Catalan independence parties, starting with that of Mr. Puigdemont, had demanded it in return for the support of their 14 deputies, without which Mr. Sánchez had no chance of remaining Prime Minister.

Since then, the PP has been up in arms against a law it considers “unconstitutional”, against which it has organized numerous demonstrations.

– “You lied!” –

The opposition never fails to recall that Mr. Sánchez himself had expressed his refusal of an amnesty during the campaign for the elections of July 23, before that parliamentary arithmetic does not force him to change his mind.

“You lied to the Spaniards, because you promised not to do so!”, launched Thursday the leader of the PP, Alberto Núñez Feijóo.

“You are going to amnesty your investiture partners simply to stay in power”, for his part, affirmed the leader of Vox, Santiago Abascal, also accusing Mr. Sánchez of wanting to divert public attention from “corruption” and also criticizing him for the recent recognition of the State of Palestine.

< p>Mr. Abascal's words triggered a violent reaction from the extreme left and socialist benches, from which “fascists!” or “pro-Nazi!”

Mr. Puigdemont had said, during the campaign for the Catalan elections of May 12, that he hoped to be present for the investiture debate of the new government, which must take place no later than June 25.

But we don't know if the arrest warrant against him will be lifted in time. Justice Minister Félix Bolaños said the law would be promulgated in “the coming days” – the courts will then have a maximum of two months to apply it.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116