Spanish defense minister facing mounting pressure to step down over Catalangate
Catalan president calls for her resignation and Spain's junior coalition partner accuses Robles of "justifying" espionage
Spain's defense minister, Margarita Robles, is facing mounting pressure to step down over Catalangate.
The Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, was just one of the voices calling for her resignation after her comments in congress referring to the alleged espionage.
Robles faced four questions on the matter in congress in Madrid on Wednesday, and she repeatedly said that the official secrets law prevents her from giving explanations on the Spanish intelligence center (CNI), although she said her government always acts within the legal framework.
Yet, during the fourth question on the matter, raised by CUP's Mireia Vehí, she said, mentioning recurrent accusations to the independence movement: "What should a state, a government do, when someone violates the constitution, someone declares independence, when someone blocks off roads, when someone leads public disorder, when someone has relations with leaders of a country that has invaded Ukraine?".
The comments sparked outrage, and Aragonès said she should take responsibility or else, PM Pedro Sánchez should remove her from cabinet.
"Her comments render her unsuitable for this post and for handling the worst scandal in decades," he said.
After Robles' statement, the Socialists' junior partner in the Spanish cabinet, Unidas Podemos, expressed "astonishment."
The anti-austerity party's spokesperson in congress, Pablo Echenique, said the defense minister had "justified" espionage.
According to him, "heads should roll" over the use of Pegasus software against Catalan pro-independence politicians, activists, lawyers and journalists, but he did not specify whether Robles should step down.
Junts per Catalunya, the junior Catalan government partner, also targeted the Socialist official.
"The Spanish government has spent a full week avoiding the issue and with their arguments learnt by heart, but today, during the fourth question, Robles exposed herself justifying espionage to the independence camp," MP Míriam Nogueras said. "This is a scandal, and we demand now more than ever that the issue be investigated."
"If the Spanish government is not ready for that, they are accomplices."
Junts per Catalunya is trying to persuade Esquerra to give up their support to the Spanish government in congress – something that the senior Catalan cabinet partner is not ruling out and could lead to the 20-cent discount per liter of oil in all stations be turned down in the chamber on Thursday.