Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has approved controversial plans to pardon nine Catalan separatists who were jailed for their role in an illegal 2017 independence referendum.
The leader of the Socialists made a much-anticipated statement during a speech in the Catalan capital, Barcelona, on Monday morning.
“Tomorrow, guided by this constitutional spirit of forgiveness, I will propose that the cabinet approve the pardon,” Sanchez said.
Last year, the government argued that the insurgency laws, which put nine figures jailed for up to 13 years, were too strict.
The apologies provoked a mixed reaction in Spain.
According to a recent poll, more than 60 percent of Spaniards oppose the plan, and thousands of people gathered last week to protest the pardon.
But most Catalans approve of pardons.
The head of the Spanish business community The Confederation of Spanish Business Organizations (CEOE) has also stated its support for the move.
At the same time, the country’s right-wing parties, which are currently growing in polls, will definitely use the pardons, even if they are likely to be only partial as a gathering.
Last Sunday, Madrid’s regional president, the conservative Isabel Diaz Ayuso, suggested that the pardon could put King Felipe in a difficult position, as the Spanish constitution would require him to sign the measures.
The apologies also leave unresolved Carles Puigdemont, the former president of Catalonia who is currently in self-imposed exile and accused of playing a role in the declaration of independence.
“Politically it is extremely risky,” Oriol Bartomeus, a professor of political science at Barcelona’s Universidad Autonoma, told Al Jazeera. “The dialogue that is starting now could end badly. Opposite forces, both hardline separatists and hard-line Spain, can grow stronger.
“So while this was a possible step, if Sanchez wanted to unblock the situation, it does not guarantee that we will be able to advance to the next round.”
Amnesties are currently being drafted by government legal advisers who want to limit potential litigation.
They will become applicable immediately after being published in the official state bulletin on a date yet confirmed.
Sanchez’s “step towards reconciliation”
Sanchez said his move was “a huge step towards reconciliation”.
“We are going to restore social harmony. We can not start from nothing, but we can start again. “We love you Catalonia,” he said.
Catalonia’s new separatist president, Per Aragones, will meet with Sanchez later this month to discuss Spain’s biggest political crisis in decades, saying politicians have recently “owed a duty to circumvent the blockade”.
At the grassroots level, Catalans such as Viet Noguera, a payroll expert who opposes the separatists ‘bid, welcomed the separatists’ pardon.
“This is a good step, because there have been very deep divisions on this topic, even in everyday life. “This can soften the confrontation,” Noguera told Al Azira Azira.
“The tougher the treatment of separatists, the more they will incite separatists. “Such a gesture means that we can begin to understand each other better.”
Some analysts see the pardon as a matter of political expediency, given Sanchez’s dependence on moderate Catalan nationalists for his minority government.
“Personally, I do not believe that Sanchez is doing this, because in his heart he is in favor of forgiveness,” Aerma Capdevila, a Catalan political analyst, told naciodigital.cat. “He knows that the right and the extreme right are waiting for him to fail. The only guaranteed support is from the Basques, the Catalan nationalists.”
He added that this would not undermine the possible positive consequences for Catalonia and Spain.
“This is what politics is about. Sanchez is paying the price now, but two years from now, if the economy recovers, no one in Spain will remember that these guys are on the streets.
“There are currently thousands of people in Catalonia applying for independence, so if the gestures end here, it will not cure anything. But this is the first step. “