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Spanish PM visits Barcelona, criticises regional chief

Mon, 21 Oct 2019 18:36 - Updated Mon, 21 Oct 2019 18:36

BARCELONA - Spain’s acting prime minister visited Barcelona on Monday following a week of Catalan separatist unrest, shrugging off calls to meet pro-independence leaders and accusing the regional president of failing in his duty to restore order.

Pedro Sanchez’s visit to the regional capital was met by hundreds of peaceful protesters, who sang the Catalan anthem and waved placards urging him to “sit and talk” with the region’s pro-seccession government.

Barcelona has been hit by seven consecutive nights of sometimes violent protests following the jailing last week of nine Catalan separatists found guilty of sedition over their role in leading a failed 2017 drive for independence.

Ahead of his visit to meet with security forces and police officers injured in the protests, Sanchez accused Catalonia’s regional president Quim Torra of failing in his duty to protect public safety and to ensure a harmonious co-existence between the pro- and anti-independence camps.

In a toughly-worded letter sent early on Monday, Sanchez said Torra had “turned his back” on the security forces and he reiterated his demand that Torra must forcefully condemn the unrest.

Torra said in a statement at the weekend he had always condemned violence and criticised the prime minister for shunning dialogue.

The regional government said Torra had requested a meeting with Sanchez during his visit to Barcelona, but it was not clear if this would happen.

A small crowd of protesters greeted Sanchez as he arrived in Barcelona, blowing horns and yelling as he walked into the national police headquarters, which has been the focal point of much of the recent violence.

The interior ministry said on Sunday that 288 police had been hurt in the clashes and 194 people arrested.

The unrest in Catalonia comes as political parties in Spain gear up for a snap national election on Nov. 10, the second vote this year.Reuters