Dialogue with Spain deepens division between Catalan parties

International

Pro-independence demonstrators rest in a park after taking part at a demonstration during the Catalan National Day in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Thousands of Catalans have rallied for independence from the rest of Spain in their first major mass gathering since the start of the pandemic. The march in Barcelona on Saturday comes before a meeting between regional leaders in northeast Catalonia and the Spanish government. ( AP Photo/Joan Mateu Parra)

MADRID (AP) — The leader of Catalonia in northeastern Spain has announced that he is excluding a separatist party in his ruling regional coalition from talks with the central government aimed at solving the tensions over the growing pro-independence sentiment in the region.

Catalan President Pere Aragonès also said he will urge Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sànchez to accept a referendum on the region’s independence when they meet Wednesday in Barcelona, the Catalan capital.

The junior partner in the Catalan regional government, Together for Catalonia (JxCat), had proposed to send to the talks two of its members who had served prison sentences for their role in a tumultuous bid for Catalan independence four years ago.

The 2017 secession push in Catalonia galvanized separatist sentiment amid a Spanish crackdown against the organizers of an illegal independence referendum.

Speaking on television Tuesday, Aragonès said the meeting was between the governments of Spain and Catalonia and that members of both delegations should be members of the regional Cabinet and not representatives of political parties.

Together for Catalonia is the party that has Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan chief who was elected to the European parliament while fighting extradition from Belgium to Spain over the 2017 bid.

His party has taken a more radical approach of confronting Spain’s national government, while the more left-leaning ERC that Aragonès represents is trying to obtain economic gains from talks with Sánchez’s left-wing coalition while still pushing for independence.

Expectations for an outcome in the talks remain extremely low. The central government says any vote on Catalonia’s future would have to be on a proposal to improve the relationship of the northeast region with the rest of Spain.

Catalonia’s voters have for several years been roughly equally divided over the secession question, with half in favor and half wanting to remain in Spain.

The division in the separatist ranks was also on display Saturday, when Catalans in favor of independence held their first major gathering since the start of the pandemic. Aragonès and other ERC leaders were booed by some protesters.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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