Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has found himself in quite a bind as he faces pressure on multiple political fronts, reports The New York Times.
National trials for 12 Catalan leaders who attempted to secede from Spain in October 2017 began on Tuesday, while Sánchez's government made a last-ditch effort to pass the national budget, which relies on the support of Catalan separatists.
Incumbent Catalan nationalist leaders have generally supported Sánchez and his minority Socialist government since he came to power in June following a vote of no-confidence against the previous conservative government. But they have maintained that unless Sánchez considers another Catalan independence referendum, they will vote against the national budget, which the Times reports will likely force Sánchez to call elections.
At the same time, thousands of Spaniards took to the street in Madrid on Sunday in protest over Sánchez's more conciliatory tone toward the Catalan secessionists. The protesters hope that the trial judges hand down tough penalties to the defendants — some of whom face up to 25 years in prison for inciting rebellion — in order to deter any future secessionist movements.
But Spain is also wary of going too far with the trials, per The Guardian, for fear that implementing such strong penalties could lead to public backlash across Europe. Tim O'Donnell