Tensions In Catalan As The Spanish Government And Catalonia Administration Disagree

By Rodrigo Orihuela

The Spanish government is threatening to deploy its police force in Catalonia as tensions escalate between the two administrations.

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The national government sent three letters to the pro-independence Catalan administration this week warning that the regional police had failed to ensure basic security during recent protests. Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said that he may send in national forces to ensure order if the regional police fail to act again.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has been trying to ease tensions between Madrid and Barcelona since coming to power in June with the support of Catalan separatists. As part of the bridge-building exercise, he is due to hold a cabinet meeting in Barcelona next week. He’ll answer questions in parliament on Wednesday morning.

Although there are growing frictions between the coalition partners that govern Catalonia, tensions with the central government are likely to escalate ahead of a trial in early 2019 of the leaders of last year’s push for independence. Two of the accused, among seven separatist leaders being held on remand, started a hunger strike Dec. 1 while Sanchez’s Socialist party suffered losses in this month’s Andalusian elections due to criticism of his rapprochement with the separatists.

“There is a change of attitude by the Spanish government regarding Catalonia,” Catalan government spokeswoman Elsa Artady said Tuesday. “It may be to do with the recent electoral results”

Pressure on Sanchez

The regional government claims those in jail are political prisoners and has demanded Madrid release them. The Sanchez administration says they are facing criminal charges and only judges have power to set them free. The cabinet meeting next week is expected to attract a large gathering of pro-independence protesters.

A second point of contention is Spain’s 2019 budget. Sanchez still needs support from the Catalan separatists to get the bill through Spain’s fragmented parliament. Both parties in the regional government backed him in June when he threw out his predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, with a no-confidence vote. But they’ve refused to back his spending plans while the movement’s leaders remain in jail.

All the same, Sanchez’s perceived chumminess with the secessionist parties played a central role in this months’s regional elections in Andalusia, Spain’s most populous region. Sanchez’s Socialists are set to be forced from power for the first time in 36 years while nationalist, anti-Catalan group Vox achieved a breakthrough result, clinching 11 percent of the votes.

Source: bloomberg.com

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