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Protests in Madrid against Catalan independence

12 February 2019

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Madrid, Spain, on Sunday to protest Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's plans to negotiate with Catalan separatists.

Sanchez is trying to cobble together support to pass a national budget and will need votes from the Catalan separatists to pass it.

The leaders of Spain's main three right wing parties - the conservative Popular Party (PP), centre-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) and far right Vox, had called the demonstration after the government's proposal to appoint a rapporteur in talks amongst political parties created to come up with agreement over the problem. "#UnidosPorEspaña (United for Spain), elections already", Pablo Casado, the President of the People's Party tweeted in Spanish on Sunday. Polls indicated that the Popular Party, Ciudadanos and Vox could win a majority of seats and replace Sánchez's government.

Mariano Rajoy, who was Spanish prime minister at the time of the independence vote and its aftermath, will be among the witnesses.

"We are here to say NO to separatism and YES to Spain, it's enough!"

Since his party holds about a quarter of the seats in Parliament, Sanchez relies on support from the Podemos party, Catalan nationalists and other small parties to pass laws.

Thousands attend Madrid demo against Catalan independence.

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Around 45,000 people attended, officials said.

The political tensions come as a highly-sensitive trial at Spain's Supreme Court starts on Tuesday for 12 leaders of the Catalan separatists, who face charges including rebellion for their roles in a failed secession attempt in 2017.

Amid the ongoing protests, embattled Prime Minister Sanchez tweeted, "The #Government works for the unity of #Spain and this means uniting the Spaniards and not confronting them as the right does".

They called the rally after Sanchez's government last week accepted the presence - as asked by Catalan separatists - of an independent "rapporteur" in future talks between Catalan parties.

Failure by parliament to approve the budget bill could prompt a snap election before the next scheduled vote in 2020.

"I want someone who will grab a broom so that Spain can move forwards", she told AFP at the rally.

Protests in Madrid against Catalan independence