By María López
Madrid, Feb 12 (EFE).- Spain’s People’s Party on Monday was looking to put to rest the fallout triggered by the leader of the conservative group, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, revealing that he would be willing to grant conditional pardons to Catalan separatists.
Last year, the Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) controversially agreed to pardon Catalan political leaders and activists who had been charged with sedition over an unsanctioned independence referendum in 2017 to secure the backing of regional and separatist parties in a coalition government.
The so-called amnesty led to massive protests in Spain, with right-wing groups particularly angry at prime minister Pedro Sanchez.
The PP has accused PSOE of orchestrating a campaign with the far-right Vox to take Feijóo down.
More than a dozen media outlets citing PP sources, including EFE, reported that the PP leadership briefly studied the amnesty before rejecting it, and that Feijóo was in favor of issuing pardons to Catalan separatists, although with multiple conditions: accountability to the judiciary and renouncing the referendum and unilateralism.
While he did not deny those reports, Feijóo on Sunday insisted that the PP is against the amnesty and stressed that there are no conditions for pardons: “I said no, I said no and I continue to say no to any amnesty (…) I said and I say no to any kind of pardon because not a single one of the conditions for any possible pardon is given”.
But the fact that the PP had met with the leadership of the hardline Catalan pro-independence Junts to study the amnesty law and that Feijóo favors reconciliation with the separatists is contrary to the PP’s public stance.
At multiple demonstrations to protest the amnesty law, Feijóo said all of those charged in the wake of the unsanctioned independence referendum should be tried and serve their sentence.
Several sources that Efe spoke to have said that that discrepancy is a concern to the PP leadership, because of the difficulty of justifying it to voters.
In addition, it has been criticized both by Vox, which rejects the PP’s relationship with the Catalan independence movement, and by the left, which accuses Feijóo of lying and withholding information.
In addition, the controversy has surfaced after the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont argued in a letter sent to MEPs that if he had backed Feijóo as prime minister instead of Sanchez, he would not be investigated for high treason or crimes of terrorism.
The national leadership of the PP has sought to put a lid on the controversy. The party’s parliamentary spokesman Miguel Tellado has said that Feijóo’s position regarding the amnesty had been taken out of context and that “there is an orchestrated campaign by certain media outlets (…) to present a certain relationship between the PP and the Catalan independence movement when there is not and has not been” any such negotiations.
In addition, Tellado has denounced a “smear campaign by the PSOE” and has accused Vox of “campaigning so that the PP does not do well”.
Several regional leaders, including he presidents of the Junta de Andalucía, the Community of Madrid and the Community of Valencia, Juanma Moreno, Isabel Díaz Ayuso and Carlos Mazón, have spoken out in support for Feijóo, pointing out that the PP leader has always rejected the amnesty and the pardon.
They insist that it is Pedro Sánchez who has given in to Junts leader Carles Puigdemont’s “blackmail” to secure a second term as prime minister.
This closing of ranks has not prevented the differences of opinion within the PP about how to deal with Junts and the Catalan separatists from being made public.
As published by EFE and pointed out by PP sources, Feijóo is in favor of maintaining relations with Junts to agree on political initiatives.
But merely talking with Junts causes division. The PP did so after the elections in July, when it initially tried to garner support to form a government after winning the most votes in the poll, and has refused to make the details of those discussions public.
That dialogue was publicly opposed by the leader of the Catalan PP, Alejandro Fernández, and Feijóo ended up backtracking on the decision to include JxCat in the round of negotiations after Puigdemont publicly asked for amnesty.