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Tens of thousands in Spain protest proposed Catalan amnesty deal

UPI
Protesters took to the streets in Toledo, Spain, on Sunday against an amnesty deal between the ruling socialist party and Catalan separatists that allows the acting prime minister to stay in power. Photo by Angeles Visdomine/EPA-EFE

Nov. 12 (UPI) -- Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Madrid on Sunday against an amnesty deal between the ruling socialist party and Catalan separatists that allows the acting prime minister to stay in power.

People in 53 cities across the country, led by the conservative Popular Party, launched protests as Pedro Sanchez readies to grant pardons to hundreds involved in the 2017 push for northeastern Catalonia independence, El Pais reported. Estimates ranged from 80,000 demonstrators to as many as half a million.

The protest comes on the heels of a snap general election in July, which ended with the incoming conservative government failing to secure enough votes to assume majority power in the nation's parliament. The election also prevented the formation of a new government under People's Party leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo, who won the election.

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In an effort to stay in power, Sanchez has been considering a deal to join forces with the party of former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont, who fled into exile six years ago to evade arrest for his role in the 2017 independence movement.

The pardons could benefit Puigdemont and other members of Together for Catalunya, also known as Junts. Nine pardons were issued in June 2021, by Sanchez.

Few details have been released about the proposed amnesty, which must be approved by Spain's parliament.

Sanchez and his party say clemency will heal the divide in the country and promote co-existence. But protesters on Sunday said otherwise. Some held signs that said "Prison for Pedro Sanchez" while others carried banners with messages that said "Democracy in Spain is at risk," and "Sanchez traitor."

At least 40,000 protesters gathered in September to protest the planned pardons.