Rajoy in Barcelona for First Catalonia Visit Since Direct Rule

Rajoy in Barcelona for First Catalonia Visit Since Direct RuleRajoy in Barcelona for First Catalonia Visit Since Direct Rule

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy visited Catalonia for the first time on Sunday since Madrid imposed direct rule on the region, a day after hundreds of thousands of Catalans marched to demand the release of jailed regional officials.

His visit came two weeks after he dismissed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, his government and the parliament, suspended the region’s autonomy and called for new elections there on December 21, AFP reported.

Speaking at a campaign event in Barcelona on Sunday, Mr Rajoy said that “we must reclaim Catalonia from the havoc of separatism,” adding: “With democracy, we want to reclaim Catalonia for everyone.”

He called on the participation of the “silent majority” to “convert their voice into a vote”.

Rajoy has told members of his conservative Popular Party that “we want a massive turnout to open up a new period of normalcy,” The Independent reported.

On Saturday hundreds of thousands of Catalans protested the jailing of regional officials for their push for independence from Spain, which has left the country mired in a political crisis.

The demonstrators gathered on an avenue next to the regional parliament building waving Catalan independence flags and chanting “Freedom!” while some held up banners announcing: “SOS Democracy”.

Barcelona municipal police put turnout for the march at some 750,000 people as crowds stretched for more than 15 blocks along the boulevard.

The Catalonia crisis has caused concern in the European Union as the bloc deals with Brexit and uncertainty over the fate of the region’s 7.5 million people. More than 2,400 businesses have moved their legal headquarters elsewhere.

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