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Four takeaways from Spain’s controversial cabinet meeting in Barcelona

Barcelona hit with mass protests against Spanish Cabinet meeting
Barcelona hit with mass protests against Spanish Cabinet meeting   -   Copyright  Reuters
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Thousands of Catalan separatists hit Barcelona's streets on Friday as Spain's government held an 'away day' cabinet meeting in the city.

They blocked roads and clashed with police in Catalonia's capital.

Protesters view Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's move to bring his senior ministers to Barcelona as a provocation.

It comes a year since Madrid organised fresh elections in the region after Catalonia's parliament voted in favour of unilaterally declaring independence from Spain. There is also still Catalan separatists still locked up over the affair.

After the cabinet meeting, there were several government announcements made that leant support to observers who claimed Sanchez's move to bring his senior team to Barcelona was designed to appease Catalan separatists, not anger them.

Here is a summary:

1. A huge minimum wage increase

Spain's minimum wage will jump by 22% in 2019, it was announced on Friday, its biggest increase in four decades.

The increase will cost €340 million to public coffers, which was strongly criticised by the opposition.

2. Barcelona airport name change

The move to change re-name Barcelona's airport after Josep Tarradellas, the first president of Catalonia after the end of Spain’s dictatorship in the 1970s, was among symbolic measures for the region that were announced on Friday.

3. Infrastructure spending boost

Spain's cabinet announced it had approved €112.77 million of spending to improve highways in Catalonia.

4. Academics honoured posthumously

Seven scientists who were punished by the Franco dictatorship will have their honours posthumously reinstated.

Earlier some separatists set off flares and burned an image of King Felipe VI, while police scuffled with masked youths in chaotic scenes. Emergency services said 32 people suffered light injuries, most of them local police.

More peaceful rallies continued into the evening, with thousands marching along the Passeig de Gracia shopping street, normally a draw for tourists, chanting 'Freedom for political prisoners!' and 'Independence!'.

Many were wearing yellow, a colour that had become associated with jailed separatist leaders.

Protester Joan Toll lamented the lack of progress after an illegal referendum and self-declaration of independence in 2017.

"If you think about what has happened in the last year, we have achieved nothing. We are only being repressed more," Toll, a 44-year-old chemist, said during one of the morning rallies. "No one wants to see violence but people are getting tired."

At least 13 people were arrested during the demonstrations, reported Reuters, which continued into Friday evening.

Demonstrators march during a protest after Spain's cabinet meeting in Barcelona.
Police officers detain a demonstrator during a protest against Spain's cabinet meeting in Barcelona, Spain, December 21, 2018Reuters
Demonstrators gesture as they confront police officers during a protest against Spain's cabinet meeting, in Barcelona,Reuters
A police officer runs after a demonstrator during a protest against Spain's cabinet meeting in Barcelona.