Spaniards demand PM’s resignation in Madrid rally

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Thousands of demonstrators hold Spanish flags during a protest in Madrid, Spain, on Sunday, Feb.10, 2019.

The rally was called by opposition center-right and right-wing parties, following the efforts of the government, led by Socialist PM Pedro Sanchez, to establish a dialog with Catalan separatists.

The leaders of Spain's main three right wing parties - the conservative Popular Party (PP), centre-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) and far right Vox, had called the demonstration after the government's proposal to appoint a rapporteur in talks amongst political parties created to come up with agreement over the problem.

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

Spain will hold municipal, regional and European Parliament elections in May.

Sanchez came to power in June with the support of Catalan nationalist parties, which voted with him in a no confidence motion against former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whose PP was embroiled in a corruption scandal.

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Sunday's protest comes as 12 jailed Catalan leaders prepare to go on trial at the Supreme Court in Madrid on Tuesday. Rajoy proved incapable of stopping support for secession from swelling in Catalonia to roughly half of the region's voters.

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

"And what I am doing now as prime minister, always respecting the constitution, is to solve a national crisis to which the Popular Party has contributed", Sanchez said.

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". He met twice with Catalan chief Quim Torra.

Sanchez had said he would be willing to help Catalan lawmakers agree to a new Charter Law, which determines the amount of self-rule the region enjoys.

The three parties had called the protest under a manifesto that accused the prime minister of "betraying" Spain after accepting 21 demands from pro-independence groups in Catalonia.