THE Spanish Congress of Ministers has this evening approved a fifth extension to the State of Alarm, keeping citizens under lockdown for 15 more days, until Sunday June 7.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez faced extreme criticism from opposition parties, with Popular Party leader Pablo Casado predicting the vote would ‘hang by a thread’.
Casado also called Sanchez a ‘headless chicken’, while saying his management of the COVID-19 pandemic was a genuine ‘piss-take’
Sanchez nevertheless advocated for the extension claiming his government’s strategy avoided ’30 million’ infections and ‘300,000 deaths’ in Spain.
“This is not conjecture; these are facts,” he said before Congress.
“The current didn’t bring us to where we are; it was the united Spanish people. No one has the right to waste the colossal effort they have shown.
“An exceptional situation needs an exceptional solution to save lives and flatten the curve, while always, always, always following the advice of the experts.”
He affirmed it was ‘not the time’ to allow liberty of movement between provinces, reopen all establishments and allow public gatherings and protests – which could have been Spain this Sunday without the extension.
He said the state of alarm, brought in on March 14, has been ‘beneficial’ to the country and was the ‘only way of stopping infections’.
It follows strong criticism, particularly from PP leader Casado, who called the harsh lockdown ‘brutal’ and a ‘failure’.
“The State is not you, no matter how much your propaganda apparatus presents you as the Sun King. Your management is a wasteland and history will not absolve you,” Casado said.
Casado and opposition parties argued the state of alarm – which grants extra powers to the government, while bringing regional police forces under centralised control – could be substituted for ordinary laws passed through Congress.
Sanchez disagreed, saying the health department – not him – were in control. He confirmed his government will propose special sanitary laws to smooth Spain’s exit from the state of alarm.
He hit back that Casado has aligned voting intentions of the PP with far-right elements, such as Vox, who’s leader Santiago Abascal has called Sanchez ‘culpable’ for the deaths of ‘thousands of patriots’.
Abascal said Sanchez has sought extraordinary power ‘at all costs’, particularly blaming his reliance on separatist Catalan to pass the extension through Congress.
Abascal has called for a nationwide car protest on May 23 to shut down provincial capitals in opposition to the socialist government’s handling of the crisis, while street protest movements sparked in Madrid last week have made clear reference to Abascal’s party.
Pablo Echenique, from Sanchez’s coalition partners, left-wing Podemos, accused Casado and Abascal of voting for ‘a second outbreak’ of the coronavirus, and ‘thousands more deaths’.
In the end, the ruling coalition won approval by an absolute majority of 177 ayes to 162 noes, with 11 abstentions.
It comes as Spain saw COVID-19 deaths fall below 100 for the fourth day running. Infections stand at 232,555, while parts of the country are proceeding through a 5-phase de-escalation plan at different speeds.