ALL the bulls in all the bullrings of Spain can’t match the rage of the country’s right wing at the moment. They have been protesting and rioting in Madrid for two weeks straight.

In the Spanish Parliament, Alberto Feijóo, leader of the PP, the main right-wing party, rants about “political corruption”.

Far-right Vox leader Santiago Abascal talks of a “coup”. The PP’s Trumpian President of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, sitting at the back of the Spanish Congress as a guest, is even seen mouthing the words: “Son of a bitch.”

All of this Spanish nationalist fury is directed at one man – Pedro Sánchez (below, left). Despite his party, the centre-left PSOE, coming second in July’s national elections, Sánchez pulled off an improbable agreement to secure his return as prime minister.

The National: Mariano Rajoy (right) has handed over power to Pedro Sanchez. Photograph: AP

A deal was signed with Catalan independence parties ERC and Junts, which will deliver an amnesty for all those who participated in the 2017 Catalan independence referendum and the events proceeding it and in its aftermath.

In return, they voted for the investiture of Sanchez’s coalition government with left-wing Sumar. With the aid of Catalan, Basque and Galician independence parties, Sánchez has squeezed a majority of just four seats.

The amnesty is no small matter. Around 3000 people are expected to benefit from it. The Catalan president at the time of the referendum, Carles Puigdemont, who lives in exile in Belgium, will be free to return to Catalonia and could well run to be its president again.

Puigdemont (below) declared independence for about 30 seconds in the aftermath of the “wildcat” referendum, before fleeing to Brussels as the Spanish government triggered article 155 of the constitution, giving it emergency powers to shut down the Catalan Parliament.

The National: Carles Puigdemont

That was the start of a massive repression against the Catalan independence movement. With the amnesty, the enormous rupture of 2017 will be legally, if not politically, reconciled.

The amnesty vindicates those who dared to put Catalonia’s right to national self-determination before the constitutional laws of the land, despite massive police violence and the ambivalence or outright complicity of European states and the EU in the repression.

The amnesty is a victory for democracy at a time when authoritarianism is very clearly on the rise across Europe.

The amnesty and the rest of the agreement with ERC and Junts – which includes writing off 20% of Catalan debts of more than €15 billion, moves towards fiscal autonomy for Catalonia, and an “international mechanism” for dialogue over how to resolve the independence question – is a red rag to the raging bull of Spanish nationalism.

For them, Puigdemont, who currently still faces outstanding charges of disobedience and embezzlement, should be locked in a prison cell.

The right on manoeuvres 

The PP and Vox are doing everything they can to stop the amnesty in its tracks. They have massive institutional support within the Spanish judiciary, police and the media, as well as in the EU.

There are signs that their campaign is working. EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders wrote to the Spanish government before the agreement expressing concern over an amnesty law which did not yet exist, and in any case is a national competence. Spanish EU officials have been garnering support for a letter stating the EU should block the amnesty, in breach of the EU’s impartiality rules.

One Spanish judge, Manuel García-Castellón, has ludicrously sought to pursue terrorism charges against Catalan independence leaders, purely because such crimes do not fall within the purview of the amnesty.

The danger is that the combination of EU conniving with Spain’s notoriously politicised judiciary could be a potent force to derail the amnesty.

The coalition agreement also raises questions about where the Catalan independence movement goes now.

Neither ERC nor Junts have formally given up on the “unilateral” route to independence, but their support for the Sánchez government suggests that strategy is firmly on the back-burner.

What next for independence supporters? 

There have been criticisms of the deal within the independence movement. Carles Riera, member of the Catalan Parliament for left-wing CUP, said that the agreement “does not recognise the right to self-determination or commit to the referendum, it commits to the state.”

The Catalan National Assembly, the main pro-independence movement organisation, have a similar critique.

However, the reality is that the Catalan independence movement has been in retreat for some time, both on the streets and in the voting booths.

The July general election was a significant setback, with all three Catalan independence parties losing votes and seats.

In that context, ERC and Junts may well argue that securing an amnesty is a significant achievement and the best that can be done in the current political climate.

But with Sánchez utterly reliant on Catalan and Basque independence parties to govern in Madrid, independence supporters may be wondering whether they will ever have more leverage over the Spanish government than they do right now to try to force the legal referendum they desperately want.