Relations between Madrid and Barcelona became increasingly strained during Rajoy’s tenure as prime minister.
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Socialist Pedro Sanchez's arrival to power in Spain has brought a glimmer of hope that icy relations will thaw between Madrid and Catalan separatists, who are wary of the new leader but happy that veteran conservative Mariano Rajoy has gone.As opposition leader, 46-year-old economist Sanchez was deeply critical of Catalonia's bid for secession last October. He backed Rajoy's imposition of direct rule on the region after separatist leaders declared Catalan independence.Sanchez's swearing-in Saturday coincided with that of new Catalan president Quim Torra's executive, which automatically triggers the end of direct rule.Even if Sanchez supported Rajoy in his response to the Catalan crisis, generally speaking the Socialists have been more attuned to Catalan claims than the conservative Popular Party.Any concessions to Catalan separatists could be rejected by members of Sanchez's own party, the PP and especially Ciudadanos, the center-right party that is on the rise in opinion polls for its aggressive anti-independence stance.
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