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Pedro Sanchez Rallies Spain Police as Rivals Gain in Catalonia Unrest

Charles Penty
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Pedro Sanchez Rallies Spain Police as Rivals Gain in Catalonia Unrest

(Bloomberg) -- Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez visited Barcelona on Monday to meet with police officers injured in separatist riots, as opinion polls show the unrest in Catalonia is boosting his right-wing rivals.

The Socialist party leader also met police commanders in charge of security in Catalonia and visited two hospitals. Violence following last week’s jail terms for Catalan separatist leaders has left 288 police injured, the interior ministry said on Sunday. One officer is in intensive care with a fractured skull.

“At this moment it’s very important to guarantee the moderation that state security forces represent,” Sanchez said in taped comments to police provided by the government.

It’s the first visit by Sanchez to the turbulent region bordering France since Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced nine pro-independence leaders to a total of 100 years in jail for sedition and misuse of public funds related to organizing an illegal referendum in 2017 to break away from Spain. The acting prime minister is trying to show he has a grip on the situation as he prepares to face a general election on Nov. 10.

The challenge is to calibrate the state’s response so that it confronts the extreme aggression of some protesters without generating the scenes of violence that shocked observers in 2017 when police clamped down on the bid to hold the referendum.

Some police office accused the government of being ill-prepared.

“There has been a significant lack of human and material resources and the consequence is that we have colleagues in hospital including one in a serious condition,” Pablo Perez, a spokesman for the police officers’ union Jupol, told state broadcaster TVE on Monday. “We cannot allow another of our colleagues to fall.”

A Sigma Dos poll in El Mundo newspaper predicted Sanchez would win 121 seats in next month’s vote, down from the 123 his Socialists won in April elections. The conservative People’s Party would get 97 seats, up from 66 in April, and the Spanish nationalists of Ox would add 12 seats to the 24 they won six months back.

The big losers are the center-right group Ciudadanos, which would plunge to 19 seats from 57, according to the survey. The poll taken from Oct. 10 to Oct. 17 partly captures the reaction to the Catalan jail sentences, which began on the evening of Oct. 14.

An Ipsos poll published by Lainformacion.com showed the Socialists with 116 to 120 seats while the PP would win 96 to 101 seats. Vox would win 32 to 36 seats in the poll of 2,000 people taken from Oct. 15 to Oct. 17.

To be sure, the polls still point to a similar outcome as in the elections in April -- namely a stalemate with neither blocs on the left or right having a clear path to a majority in parliament.

--With assistance from Todd White.

To contact the reporter on this story: Charles Penty in Madrid at cpenty@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net, Ben Sills, Raymond Colitt

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