Congress calls off open house for public

Formal excuse is the ongoing refurbishment works in the building Some see it as an extra measure to avoid protest groups breaking through the security barrier

The standing committee in Congress on Tuesday decided to cancel this year's traditional two-day open house period for the public to visit parliament because of construction taking place inside the building.

Although the formal excuse was blamed on the ongoing works, some see it as an extra measure to avoid protest groups from breaking through the security barrier outside Congress and entering the building to hold demonstrations.

The streets surrounding the parliament building have been the scenes of several violent clashes between demonstrators and police over the past few months during the so-called Surround Congress protests.

Popular Party (PP) Deputy Celia Villalobos even asked the standing committee to close the galley in Congress to the public as an extra precaution, according to the panel's minutes, obtained by EL PAÍS.

"Mrs Villalobos proposes that the extraordinary security measures could also include the temporary cancelation of the presence of citizens in the gallery when sessions are taking place, taking into account that the entrance on Zorrilla street is closed," the document states.

However, Speaker Jesús Posada has said that he didn't want to hold any sessions closed off to the public.

The annual open house was first introduced in 2000 by then-Speaker Federico Trillo, who now serves as Spain's ambassador to Britain. They usually take place in the first week of December and attract a large number of visitors.

This year's open house had been scheduled for December 3 and 4.

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