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In Spain, one fight is over, while another has just begun

Carles Puigdemont, a leader of the pro-independence Catalan movement.

Carles Puigdemont, a leader of the pro-independence Catalan movement.

Albert Llop/Reuters

It was an enormously controversial political plan, and now the deed is done. On Thursday, Spain’s Congress approved a plan togrant amnesty to more than 300 Catalan nationalists, many of whom were involved in the failed 2017 Catalan secession referendum that Spanish courts ruled illegal. Among those now free of legal jeopardy is Carles Puigdemont, the organizer of that referendum, who avoided arrest only by fleeing the country to Brussels and later to Perpignan, just across the Spanish border in France.

The vote passed by an ultra-thin 177-172 margin. Those in favor included the governing PSOE; its coalition partner, Sumar; various Catalan, Basque, and Galician nationalist parties; and the far-left Podemos. Opposed were the center-right People’s Party, the far-right Vox, and other conservatives.

The deal was controversial from the start because Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez could not have formed a government after the last election without the backing of Catalan nationalist political parties — and those parties demanded this amnesty as a condition of their support. Opposition leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo has denounced the amnesty as “political corruption,” while Socialists insist the goal is political reconciliation.

The bottom line: Puigdemont can now safely cross the border from France, Catalan would-be separatists are again free to wage political battle, and the next fight over secession has begun.


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