Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced the pardon on Monday in Barcelona, ââwith his government due to formally approve the move at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.
“The pardons will help ease tensions between the Catalan government and Madrid and facilitate negotiations, but it is difficult to see this lead to an agreement between the parties,” said Lluis Orriols, political scientist at Carlos III University in Madrid. .
“It’s still far away.”
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In October 2017, the separatist regional leadership of Catalonia organized a referendum on independence despite a ban from Madrid, which was marred by police violence.
Weeks later, they made a short-lived declaration of independence, triggering the worst political crisis Spain has seen in decades.
This prompted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to flee abroad while others who remained in Spain were arrested and tried.
Nine were sent to prison for between nine and 13 years.
“Graces are in essence symbolic”, explains Cristina Monge, political scientist at the University of Zaragoza.
“It is a way of being able to come back to the negotiating table with proof of goodwill, and also to reposition the conflict in the political sphere.”
Since Sanchez’s minority left-wing coalition came to power in January 2020, it has relied in part on support from the ERC, a left-wing Catalan separatist party, which in return has demanded talks on the resolution of the separatist conflict.
However, the parties only met once before talks were put on hold by the pandemic.
But they are expected to resume quickly after a meeting later this month between Sanchez and new Catalan leader Pere Aragones, a moderate ERC who is much more open to negotiation than his predecessor, Quim Torra, of the hardline JxCat.
The independence movement in the northeast region is unlikely to give up on its main goals of securing an amnesty for all those who participated in the 2017 independence bid and holding a referendum on self-determination this time around. with the approval of Madrid.
Both options were firmly ruled out by the Spanish government.
But pardons offer the potential to shake things up in Catalonia, where support for independence has grown over the past decade, said Oriol Bartomeus, a political scientist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
“The moment you take the prisoners out of the equation” – thus removing a factor used by separatists to galvanize their supporters into action – “you are forcing the independence movement to rethink,” he said.
And even if they publicly stick to their lines, “a new chapter will open behind the scenes.”
Last week, Aragones called for amnesty and a new referendum during a visit to Puigdemont in Belgium where he fled after the independence crisis, both saying pardons would not resolve the conflict. current policy.
Aragones also did not attend the Spanish Prime Minister‘s speech in Barcelona on Monday.
But Aragones and Oriol Junqueras, the ERC leader and the longest serving prisoner of 13 years, have taken a step towards Sanchez by distancing themselves from the path of unilateralism.
For Puigdemont, who has never been tried for his role in the crisis, the pardons do not change anything, the intransigent leader can only return to Spain in the event of an amnesty.
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