Popular Party chief claims Catalan premier wants “bloodshed” and “civil war”

Pablo Casado accused the prime minister of being weak at a charged congressional session on Wednesday

Popular Party leader Pablo Casado.
Popular Party leader Pablo Casado.Jaime Villanueva

The Catalan crisis was at the center of the debate at the last session of the year devoted to question time inside Spanish Congress.

The leader of the Popular Party (PP), Pablo Casado, criticized Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez for “imploring” Catalan premier Quim Torra to meet with him on Thursday.

PM Sánchez said Casado has a style that is “authoritarian in shape and content”

Torra is “attacking the heart of the Spanish state” and seeking “bloodshed” and “a civil war,” said the conservative leader.

Sánchez in turn lamented Casado’s “authoritarian” tone and said that security and public order will be guaranteed in Catalonia.

The remarks come as Barcelona gears up for citywide disruption on Friday, when Sánchez is planning to hold a Cabinet meeting in the heart of the Catalan capital instead of at its usual Madrid location.

Pro-independence groups are promising to bring the city to a standstill with mass protests against what they view as “a provocation,” and several unions are calling for strikes that day.

Central and regional leaders are scheduled to meet in Barcelona on Thursday, the eve of the Cabinet meeting, but on Wednesday afternoon it was still unclear how many officials would be attending the gathering.

Deputy PM Carmen Calvo said there will be two get-togethers, one between Sánchez and Torra, and another one between their deputies. But Catalan government sources said there will be one single meeting bringing together all of the above plus ministers and department chiefs.

Weak versus authoritarian

Inside Congress on Wednesday, Casado portrayed the Socialist leader as dependent on the Catalan separatists who helped him win a no-confidence vote against Mariano Rajoy of the PP in late May. Sánchez now heads a minority government with just 84 lawmakers inside the 350-seat chamber, and has been unable to secure support for key projects such as the 2019 budget blueprint.

Casado said that Torra wants to see tanks in the streets of Catalonia

The PSOE also sustained a major setback in early December when it lost its traditional hold on the southern region of Andalusia at an election that showed unprecedented support for a far-right group called Vox, which supports recentralizing Spain and getting tough on Catalan secessionists.

Voters’ response to the Catalan issue takes on added meaning as Spain gears up for local, regional and European elections next year. Analysts are not ruling out the possibility of a snap national election as well, if Sánchez fails to get the budget passed.

Casado, who became the new PP president in July, has himself supported hardening the criminal code’s response to secessionist attempts, and reforming election laws “to stop depending on nationalists and minority parties.”

On Wednesday, Casado described the Catalan premier as “a man who wants bloodshed, a civil war in Catalonia, who wants to see tanks in the streets,” alluding to Torra’s recent defense of “the Slovenian way” as a model for Catalonia to follow. Slovenia went through a 10-day war that produced dozens of casualties as it split from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Meanwhile, Sánchez reasserted his belief in “dialogue within the bounds of the law and the Spanish Constitution,” and accused Casado of engaging in attack politics with a style that is “authoritarian in shape and content.” He also said the conservative leader is “trying to appropriate the Constitution, which belongs to everybody.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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