BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Catalan separatist crisis that has plagued Spain ever since a failed breakaway bid by the wealthy region two years ago promises to play a central role in Spain’s April 28 national election.
While the ruling Socialists led by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez are trying to focus on social issues, the opposition parties on the right are competing for which of them can take a harder stance on reigning in the secessionists.
That includes the upstart far-right Vox party, which is hoping to increase voter support with a pledge to crush the separatist movement by stripping Catalonia’s regional government of its powers and recentralizing control in Madrid, the capital.
A few thousand supporters came to an outdoor rally by Vox on Saturday in downtown Barcelona, the largest city in northeastern Catalonia.
Many carried Spanish flags and greeted Vox leader Santiago Abascal with chants of “President! President!” when he took the stage.
“Catalonia is not a nation! It is something much more important; it is a part of Spain!” Abascal told the crowd on Saturday.
Abascal railed against the attempt by Catalan separatist lawmakers to declare independence in 2017, a fateful decision that set off Spain’s worst constitutional crisis in nearly four decades.