Spaniards demand PM’s resignation in Madrid rally

People gather during a protest called by right-wing opposition parties against Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez at Colon square in Madrid Spain

Tens of thousands of people gathered in the Spanish capital Madrid on Sunday to protest against a government plan aimed easing tensions with Catalonia.

Under the shadow of Colon Square's huge Spanish red and yellow flag, demonstrators bussed in from all over the country heard speakers call for the defence of Spanish unity.

They are opposed to Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's proposal to hold talks with Catalan pro-independence parties.

Elena Navarro, who attended the anti-Sanchez rally in Madrid with her teenaged son, said Sanchez was "a traitor".

The political tensions come as a highly sensitive trial at Spain's Supreme Court starts on Tuesday for 12 Catalan separatists who face charges, including rebellion, for their roles in a failed secession attempt in 2017.

However, the government broke off the negotiations on Friday when Vice President Carmen Calvo said the separatists had refused to back down from their demand for an independence referendum.

Sanchez inherited the Catalan crisis from former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the then-leader of the Popular Party. Some banners at the rally read "Sanchez, liar" and "Spain is not negotiable and can not be sold".

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His minority government last week agreed to allow an independent rapporteur - as requested by Catalan separatists - to attend future talks with pro-independence parties.

"The government is giving many things to supporters of Catalan independence and is going to break Spain apart", said Raquel García, 76, who was carrying a Spanish flag.

The right wing parties accused the government of treachery over the move.

Mr Sanchez is trying to cobble together support to pass a national budget and will need votes from the Catalan separatists to pass it. The Socialist leader holds just a quarter of the seats in parliament and relies on backing from anti-austerity party Podemos, Catalan nationalists and other small parties to pass laws.

Failure by parliament to approve the budget bill could prompt a snap election before the next scheduled vote in 2020.

The conservative opposition Popular Party and the center-right Citizens party organized the rally, which was also backed by the upstart far-right Vox and other marginal far-right parties.

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