Thousands Protest in Madrid Against Spanish PM's Catalonia Proposal

A woman holds a placard reading

A woman holds a placard reading"Free political prisoners in Barcelona

They claim that Sanchez must resign for holding talks with separatists in the north-eastern region of Catalonia.

Many in the crowd gathered in the capital's Plaza de Colon, waving Spanish flags.

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

Sanchez inherited the Catalan crisis from former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the then-leader of the Popular Party.

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. Some banners at the rally read "Sanchez, liar" and "Spain is not negotiable and can not be sold".

Speaking at a Socialist party event in northern Spain, Sanchez reminded his political opponents that when he was an opposition leader, he stood by Rajoy on the situation in Catalonia even after separatist regional officials staged an October 2017 independence referendum in defiance of Spanish courts.

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

Organisers said over 200,000 people took part on the rally held under the slogan "For a united Spain". Members of the central and regional governments had several more encounters.

Sanchez rejected that argument, telling a separate rally in the northern city of Santander: "The government works for the unity of Spain and that means to unify Spaniards and not to put one against the other as the right is doing today in Colon square". But those parties have said their vote for the budget is conditional on the Catalan talks including the issue of independence, something the government will not include.

The protest was organised by two centre-right parties, the Popular Party and Ciudadanos, with the new far-right Vox Party also participating. That prompted an outcry from the opposition, which accused Sanchez of giving in to pressure from the separatists, whose votes he will need to pass a crucial budget plan next week.

If Sanchez fails to secure enough votes to pass the 2019 national budget, he may be forced to call snap polls.

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