Spain’s caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party (PSOE), traveled to Barcelona on Monday morning in a surprise visit that was not listed on his official agenda.
The Spanish leader was in Barcelona for just a few hours and returned to Madrid at around 1pm without offering any news conferences. He did not meet with the head of the Catalan government, the separatist Quim Torra, whose telephone calls to Sánchez last weekend went unanswered.
Caretaker PM Pedro Sánchez
Sánchez has demanded from Torra an unequivocal condemnation of the street violence seen in Barcelona and other major Catalan cities throughout last week, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to sentence nine separatist leaders to prison terms of up to 13 years over the unilateral breakaway attempt of 2017.
Sánchez instead met with high-ranking officials of the National Police and later visited injured officers at Sagrat Cor and Sant Pau hospitals, where he was booed by some staff members. Hundreds of people have been injured in the weeklong clashes between protesters and the police.
According to a government press release, Sánchez thanked the hospitalized policemen for their contribution to containing the “public order crisis” in Catalonia. He also said that “great patience” will be required. “The crisis is not over, we will have to be persistent.”
Several hundred independence supporters protested Sánchez’s visit in front of the Spanish government’s delegation headquarters in Barcelona, where they sat down with signs that read: “Spain: sit and talk.” The leaderless movement Democratic Tsunami, which is being investigated for its role in organizing last week’s widespread protests, issued a message on Twitter showing images of the sit-in with the message: “The Spanish government was wondering who is behind the Tsunami. Today we made that clear: the same people who are in front.”
Sánchez has sent Torra a letter urging him to condemn the violence of recent days. “The duty of any public official is to ensure the safety of all citizens [...] and preserve the social harmony. [...] In recent days, your behavior has been moving precisely in the opposite direction,” reads the letter, which was made public on Monday morning.
Pablo Casado, the head of the opposition conservative Popular Party (PP), was also in Barcelona on Monday, where he met with the media and said that the criminal code should be updated to reflect the new forms of rebellion. “What we have seen in this case of sedition that has recently been tried is that it took place from within the institutions, and not necessarily wielding weapons,” he said.
Spain will hold a fresh general election on November 10, the fourth in four years.
English version by Susana Urra.