Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, in his first visit to Catalonia since the region declared independence, has said the December elections dictated by Madrid after it imposed direct rule, will bring an end to the “separatists havoc” in the region.
Rajoy arrived in Barcelona to campaign for his Popular Party candidates in the region.
Claiming he has “exhausted all roads,” with the independence movement, he called on the “silent majority” to cast their vote. “We must recover Catalonia from the havoc of separatism,” he said.
Rajoy’s arrival comes one day after hundreds of thousands of Catalans marched to demand the release of jailed regional officials, and a little over two weeks after his government stripped former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont of his powers and called for Dec. 21 elections.
On Saturday, large crowds turned out to protest the incarceration of several regional officials who support Catalonia's independence from Spain. The demonstrators gathered following the regional parliament speaker's release after posting the US$175,000 bond.
Eight ex-Catalan cabinet members are currently detained on several charges ranging from of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds.
Puigdemont is in Belgium awaiting a hearing on possible extradition back to Spain after Madrid issued an EU-wide warrant.
"Although some of us are far away from you and others are in prison, we have an opportunity to express loudly and clearly that we want freedom and democracy," Puigdemont told Catalan television.
The demonstrators waved Catalan independence flags and chanted "Freedom!" while others displayed "SOS Democracy" banners.
Approximately 750,000 people spanning 15 blocks turned out to voice their protest of the jailing of Catalan officials.