Spain: Socialist Party government mounts a provocation in Catalonia
21 December 2018
Calling its weekly Cabinet meeting in the Catalan region’s capital, Barcelona, instead of Madrid is a deliberate provocation by the Socialist Party (PSOE) government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. It threatens to ignite sectarian strife in the already politically volatile region.
Today’s meeting takes place only a fortnight after the PSOE suffered a debacle in the regional elections in Andalusia, which produced a right-wing majority in the region’s parliament after 36-years of uninterrupted PSOE rule. A fascist party, VOX, entered Spanish politics for the first time since the death of General Francisco Franco, winning 10 seats after mounting an aggressive campaign against Sánchez for holding talks with the Catalan nationalists.
Sánchez’s response was to hold his Cabinet meeting in the historic building Casa Llotja de Mar, located in the centre of Barcelona, only 500 metres from the regional government headquarters and only 700 metres from Parliament Park. The government took the decision against the advice of the Catalan regional police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, which recommended the Palacete Albéniz, located outside the city.
Sánchez, aware that it would provoke demonstrations, has put the city under lockdown with the deployment of more than 9,000 officers from four agencies—the Barcelona municipal police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, the National Police and the militarized Civil Guards—to protect the meeting. The police and media have warned that protestors face prosecution under articles 503 and 504 of Spain’s Criminal Code, which carry a sentence of up to five years in prison for anyone who tries to interrupt a Cabinet meeting “violently or…