Spain Business Groups Support Pardons for Jailed Catalan Leaders

Leaders of the top business associations in Spain and the Catalonia region have come out in favor of a government decision to pardon Catalan leaders serving prison sentences for organizing an illegal referendum in 2017 and attempting to declare independence.

Antonio Garamendi, chairman of the country’s largest business group CEOE, and the president of Catalonia’s Economic Circle, Javier Faus, said the pardons are a step toward a return to normal ties between Madrid and the region.

“If the result of this is that things go back to normal, then we welcome it,” Garamendi said in a interview Thursday with Radio 4. Pardons “are within the rule of law and fall within the government’s power.”

The decision by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to pardon 11 pro-independence leaders currently in prison has stirred controversy in Spain. Thousands of people gathered in Madrid on Sunday to protest the move, including leaders of conservative opposition parties Ciudadanos, the People’s Party and VOX.

Spain Business Groups Support Pardons for Jailed Catalan Leaders

“Any measure that falls within the rule of law, and pardons do, will have the support of the Circle,” Faus said on Wednesday in a speech attended by Catalan President Pere Aragones. “It’s the moment to get to work -- no reproaches, we have been paralyzed for 10 years.”

The government is expecting to formally issue the pardons within the next three weeks, Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said earlier this week. The Justice Ministry is working on legal documentation to justify pardons for each of the jailed leaders, she said.

Among those in jail is Oriol Junqueras, the leader of the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya party. Junqueras was vice president of Catalonia’s regional government in 2017 and has become a key figure in Spain’s complicated parliamentary math. Sanchez, of the Socialist party, leads a minority government that depends on votes from Esquerra, and the premier has had to cut deals with Junqueras’s group in order to pass key legislation.

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