Junqueras demands gesture from Spain to negotiate budget
Jailed pro-independence leader meets with Podemos head Pablo Iglesias in jail
Oriol Junqueras, the former vice president of Catalonia, jailed for his role in the independence bid, dampened the possibility of Spain passing its budget after a crucial meeting in prison on Friday.
Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos and main ally of the Spanish president, visited Junqueras in jail to convince him to back the bill. Yet, Junqueras stated that his party, Esquerra (ERC), will not sit down to negotiate unless the government in Madrid provides a goodwill gesture towards jailed politicians.
Such a gesture could be urging the attorney general to withdraw rebellion accusations against pro-independence leaders for organizing a referendum despite Spain’s opposition last year—those same charges that are keeping them behind bars.
Spain’s president, Pedro Sánchez, has repeatedly rejected such a possibility. Unless anything changes, Spain faces a deadlock.
After the meeting, Iglesias said that his party "did its share" and stated that "now it is time for the Spanish government to do a gesture".
A recent agreement between Iglesias and Sánchez was the first step towards passing the budget. But in order to succeed, they needed the votes of those parties that made their government possible in the first place; those that voted to oust president Mariano Rajoy and elect Sánchez. This includes pro-independence parties.
In order to pass the budget, the Spanish government needs the votes of all the parties that backed Sánchez’s no-confidence vote against his predecessor, Mariano Rajoy—this includes PDeCAT, the second largest pro-independence party in the Spanish congress.
It is unclear what PDeCAT’s final decision will be. While some party officials in Madrid are open to sitting at the same table with Sánchez, the president of Catalonia, Quim Torra, flatly rejected negotiating with him as long as there are "political prisoners and exiles." If the situation doesn’t change, he said, negotiating the budget will be "impossible."