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Nearly 2,000 people marched through the streets of Madrid on Saturday to denounce Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s decision to end Spain’s neutrality in Western Sahara. Eight days ago, Spain announced its support for the Moroccan autonomy proposal for the former Spanish colony.
Nearly 2,000 people demonstrated on Saturday March 26 in Madrid to show their support for Western Sahara and demand self-determination for this former Spanish colony, a few days after a reversal of the Spanish government in favor of Morocco on the subject.
“Sanchez, traitor”, “The Sahrawis decide, they are not your bargaining chip”, “The Sahara is not for sale”: many placards castigated the decision of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to suddenly support the plan defended by Rabat on the disputed territory of Western Sahara, and thus put an end to a diplomatic estrangement of almost a year.
“This is the latest betrayal perpetrated by the Spanish government,” lamented Pablo Marin, 63, amid Saharawi flags, but also flags of the radical left party Podemos, yet an ally of the government in the ruling coalition.
A year of diplomatic quarrel between Madrid and Rabat
Displaying its neutrality so far, Madrid publicly announced eight days ago its support for the Moroccan autonomy plan for Western Sahara, a vast desert territory rich in phosphates and with waters full of fish, which opposes Rabat to the Polisario Front, supported by Algiers, since the departure of the Spaniards in 1975.
This resounding announcement comes after a diplomatic crisis, triggered in April 2021 by the reception in Spain, to be treated there for Covid-19, of the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, sworn enemy of Rabat.
Its climax was, a month later, the arrival of some 10,000 migrants of Moroccan origin in a few hours in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, on the northern coast of Morocco, thanks to a relaxation of the border surveillance on the Moroccan side.
Coming from all over Spain, the demonstrators were around 2,000 on Saturday in Madrid, according to local authorities. Fatma Hamida, a 20-year-old student, came from Zamora, Castile and Leon, in northwestern Spain, to oppose “a decision by Pedro Sanchez and demonstrate for our freedom, our right to ‘have a territory of our own’.
The reversal of Pablo Sanchez criticized
“Angry”, Salome Brahim, a 28-year-old salesman from Valladolid, believes that the Sahrawis have been “the bargaining chip against the interests of the Moroccan kingdom”.
“Nobody knows why” Spain suddenly changed its position, and “that’s the problem”, he explains, when for almost fifty years and the departure of the Spaniards, Madrid remained neutral.
The conflict in Western Sahara, considered a “non-autonomous territory” by the UN, has pitted Morocco against the separatists of the Polisario Front supported by Algiers for decades.
Rabat, which controls nearly 80% of this territory, proposes an autonomy plan under its sovereignty while the Polisario calls for a self-determination referendum, planned when signing a ceasefire in 1991 but never materialized.