Pardon for separatists divides Spain

Despite strong opposition across the country, the Spanish government has pardoned nine imprisoned Catalan separatist leaders. They will be released on parole on Wednesday after more than three years behind bars and are banned from holding political office. While Spanish commentators are divided over whether this was the right decision, media from other countries approve.

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Večernji list (HR) /

A change of course lacking popular support

Prime Minister Sánchez is sending a signal aimed at de-escalation, says Večernji list:

“With this decision, Sánchez wants to facilitate a new dialogue between Madrid and the Catalan government, convinced that a continuing confrontation cannot solve this problem. ... Sánchez has thus announced a change of course in Madrid's policy regarding the Catalan issue, which has escalated in recent years and become the biggest political crisis in Spain since the fall of the dictatorship and the introduction of democracy; even though according to polls most Spaniards are against the Catalan separatists being pardoned, as are almost all the conservative opposition parties.”

Público (PT) /

Sánchez doing the right thing

Público also praises the Spanish prime minister's move as constructive:

“Sánchez is defending a pardon, not an amnesty. ... He is doing this in the conviction that Spain must try to overcome the consequences of its recent past by re-establishing a space of coexistence between Catalan society and the rest of Spain. Not as a signal of 'forgetting', but of 'respect and affection'. Instead of insisting on the repression that fuels separatist extremism, he proposes a gesture of concord to re-establish dialogue. Instead of coercion or the exercise of legitimate state violence, he proposes the tolerance and openness that invite democratic engagement.”

El Mundo (ES) /

A hopeless gesture

The centralist daily El Mundo addresses the Spanish prime minister directly in its editorial, accusing him of selfishly betraying the interests of the Spanish people:

“You are a hostage, Mr Sánchez. A prime minister who has no vision other than his own survival, constantly clutching at straws. Now that you have given in to this blackmail, more will follow. And all of it will damage the cohesion of the Spanish people, which was once important to social democracy. You can't appease those who live from being your enemy. You can't expect concord from those who do not want to be pardoned and continue to boycott the rhetoric of dialogue.” (ES) /

Make full use of trump cards

Since Sánchez is dependent on the votes of the Catalan ruling parties for a majority in the Spanish Congress, the independence movement must now take full advantage of its strength, demands the editor-in-chief of the pro-separatist news site, José Antich:

“The independence movement now has the chance to secure the return of the exiled and an end to the repressive measures against 3,000 other people affected, because their votes will decide whether or not snap elections are held. The dialogue could be mere chit-chat or real talks aimed at negotiating amnesty and self-determination. Madrid holds the power, but the Catalan government holds the trump cards - provided it doesn't squander them.”

The Guardian (GB) /

De-escalation needed now

Spain's prime minister must not let the protests dissuade him from his plan, The Guardian urges:

“It is in the interests of Spain that the Catalan question is detoxified and a less confrontational future mapped out. ... Catalonia's separatist movements badly overreached in 2017, combining hubris with reckless opportunism. Madrid's excessive, authoritarian response, led by the conservative prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, and the judges of the supreme court, made matters far worse. Four years on, Mr Sánchez is right to see pardons as a necessary step towards ensuring that there is never a repeat of that corrosive sequence of events.”

La Razón (ES) /

We deserve an explanation

At the very least, Sánchez now owes the Spanish people transparency, La Razón stresses:

“This is not a trifling issue, because the crimes under discussion were not trifles - they violated the laws of democracy. Therefore, Pedro Sánchez must take personal responsibility and explain to parliament the conditions and agreements that would apply for the pardons. ... Just as [Spain's ex-prime minister] Rodríguez Zapatero explained the start of negotiations with Eta to parliament, Sánchez must do the same and dispel any doubts about the true motives that have led him to take such a weighty initiative as to release from prison those who put our constitutional order at risk.” (ES) /

Defuse the situation

All the political camps should be interested in de-escalation, admonishes:

“Almost four years have passed since 1 October 2017 and the legal process, as necessary as it was, has not solved the problem. Independence supporters continue to rule the region and the central government has no choice but to decide either to do nothing, reject the petitions for pardon, and let the problem become chronic, or take action to defuse a situation that has dragged on for too long. One can be Spanish and even right-wing and still be in favour of defusing the situation. This won't break Spain and you won't be committing treason.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Illegal and unwise

There cannot and must not be pardons, El Mundo insists:

“This is not just an ethical matter but also a legal and political issue. The conditions for issuing pardons do not exist. Firstly, because they cannot be granted collectively. Secondly, because the convicts have not expressed any remorse: they remain defiant. And for a decade now, all political or economic concessions have done is to embolden the independence movement. To encourage the next provocation with the impunity of the last one is neither right nor intelligent.”