Madrid mass protest over Catalonia talks

Protesters gather in Colon square, Madrid - 10 FebruaryImage copyright

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The protesters object to the government’s policy on talks with the separatists

Thousands are in central Madrid for a protest by centre-right parties opposed to a plan by the Spanish government to ease tension in the Catalonia region.

The Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos (Citizens) called the protest after PM Pedro Sánchez said he would appoint a rapporteur for talks with separatists.

They consider the appointment a betrayal and surrender to separatist pressure, and want early elections.

Like the right, the ruling Socialists also oppose Catalan independence.

Far-right groups including the Vox party are also present at the protest, held under the slogan “For a united Spain. Elections now!”

Protesters filled the Spanish capital’s Colon Square and nearby streets, many of them chanting “long live Spain” or singing along to taped music, including songs by Tom Jones and Lady Gaga.

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The far-right Vox party is also part of the protest – its president Santiago Abascal seen here

One protester, Mabel Campuzano, told Reuters news agency that Mr Sánchez was “betraying Spain and we think that Spaniards don’t deserve him as the president of the government”.

In a speech to the crowds, PP leader Pablo Casado denounced Mr Sánchez’s policies as “Socialist surrender” and “deals under the table”, Efe news agency reported.

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Media captionEstel Oleart is a Catalan independence activist.

“Sánchez’s time is over,” Mr Casado said, adding that the protests were a turning point and the beginning of a return to “harmony and legality” in Spain.

Catalan nationalists regained power in Barcelona in May, after a seven-month period of direct rule by Madrid.

Tensions remain high, as many Catalans resent Madrid’s show of force last year, when it charged pro-independence leaders with sedition.

Mr Sánchez heads a minority government that depends on nationalists – including Catalans – to stay in power, but he has ruled out any new Catalan referendum on independence.

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Media captionWhat happened to Catalonia? One year on

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