Spain’s Sanchez Urges Catalan Separatists Not to Fuel Unrest

(Bloomberg) -- Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warned Catalan nationalists not to encourage violent protests when the trial of separatist leaders concludes.

“What we ask the independence movement is that they don’t play with fire,” Sanchez said in an interview with Cadena Ser radio Tuesday. “We are not a government that wants to exaggerate the situation or contribute to putting more gasoline on a fire that exists in Catalonia and which would be in the interests of the independence movement.”

Spain’s Sanchez Urges Catalan Separatists Not to Fuel Unrest

Spain is entering a tense period ahead of elections on Nov. 10 and the imminent verdict in a trial of pro-independence leaders who attempted to split Catalonia from Spain in 2017. Sanchez spoke as protesters in the region marked the second anniversary of an illegal referendum that provoked a crackdown from Spanish riot police.

Sanchez said his government was fully prepared to return to direct rule for Catalonia if necessary, although he insisted no decision has been taken. Police protected the high-speed train station in the Catalan city of Girona as protesters gathered to throw eggs and paint at the Civil Guard headquarters, El Periodico newspaper reported.

The premier urged independence movement leaders to condemn any acts of violence. Spanish police last week arrested nine separatist activists on suspicion of planning terrorist acts and possessing explosive materials.

Sanchez said differences over the situation in Catalonia remain an obstacle to a coalition with Podemos, a party whose support he may need to form a government after next month’s election. Even so, he said he didn’t want to dwell on past disagreements and urged Podemos to contribute to forming a progressive administration.

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