Posts Tagged ‘Barcelona’

Pro-unity march in heart of ‘independent’ Catalonia

October 29, 2017

AFP

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© AFP / by Daniel Bosque with Mariette le Roux in Madrid | Bikers joined a pro-unity protest in Barcelona, waving Spanish flags

BARCELONA (AFP) – Pro-unity protesters gathered for a rally in Catalonia’s capital Barcelona on Sunday, two days after regional lawmakers voted to break away from Spain, plunging the country into an unprecedented political crisis.

As protesters gathered for the march, the deputy president of the region’s now-deposed government lashed out against Madrid over what he called a “coup d’etat”.

“The president of the country is and will remain Carles Puigdemont,” his deputy Oriol Junqueras wrote in Catalan newspaper El Punt Avui.

Junqueras used the word “country” to refer to Catalonia, whose lawmakers pushed Spain into uncharted waters Friday with a vote to declare the region independent.

“We cannot recognise the coup d’etat against Catalonia, nor any of the anti-democratic decisions that the PP (Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s ruling Popular Party) is adopting by remote control from Madrid,” Junqueras wrote.

He signed the article as the “vice president of the government of Catalonia”.

– ‘Viva Espana!’ –

The Catalan crisis was triggered by a banned independence referendum on October 1 that was shunned by many, and marred by police violence.

Then on Friday, Catalan lawmakers passed a motion, by 70 votes out of 135 in the secessionist-majority regional parliament, to declare the region of 7.5 million people independent from Spain.

Rajoy responded by deposing the regional government, dissolving its parliament, and calling December 21 elections to replace them.

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, was temporarily put in charge of administering the rebel region.

As prosecutors prepared to file charges of rebellion against Puigdemont next week, he too was defiant on Saturday, calling for “democratic opposition” to Madrid’s power grab.

Puigdemont accused the central government of trampling on the will of independence-seeking Catalans with the first curtailment of regional autonomy since Francisco Franco’s brutal 1939-75 dictatorship.

Barcelona readied for Sunday’s anti-independence march under the slogan: “Catalonia is all of us!”

Television footage showed people streaming out of a metro station near the march, draped in Spanish flags.

The rally is due to kick off at noon near where tens of thousands of people celebrated the new “republic” with song, wine and fireworks just two days earlier.

“Viva Espana!” cried Sunday’s protesters, whose chant means “long live Spain”.

Participants at the rally will include representatives of three Catalan opposition parties — including Rajoy’s conservative PP, in what may amount to the start of an election campaign.

An opinion poll published in centre-right newspaper El Mundo Sunday said separatist parties would lose their majority in Catalonia’s regional parliament if elections were held today.

– Divided region –

Later on Sunday, Real Madrid football club will face Girona, Puigdemont’s favourite team, in the Catalan side’s home stadium, in a game that may see some of Spain’s divisions reflected in the stands.

It is the first visit by Real Madrid, Rajoy’s favourite team, to Catalonia since the referendum.

Roughly the size of Belgium, Catalonia accounts for about 16 percent of Spain’s population and attracts more tourists than anywhere else in the country.

It produces about a fifth of Spain’s economic output — equivalent to that of Portugal.

Before the upheaval, Catalonia enjoyed considerable autonomy, with control over education, healthcare and policing.

But while fiercely protective of their language, culture and autonomy, Catalans are divided on independence, according to polls.

Rajoy drew sweeping powers, approved by the senate, under a never-before-used constitutional article designed to rein in rebels among Spain’s 17 semi-autonomous regions.

He used these to axe Puigdemont, his deputy, regional ministers, heads of departments, and the chief of police in a move that angered some Catalans.

Far-left supporters of Puigdemont have threatened “mass civil disobedience” if Rajoy carries out the power grab, but have yet to announce any plans.

In Madrid, several thousand people gathered on the central Plaza Colon Saturday, waving the Spanish flag, and calling for Puigdemont to be jailed.

Spain enjoys the backing of the United States and allies in a secession-wary European Union still reeling from Britain’s decision to leave its fold.

Many fear the economic impact as the standoff drags on, with some 1,700 companies having moved their legal headquarters out of Catalonia so far.

burs-mlr/ds/ser

by Daniel Bosque with Mariette le Roux in Madrid
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Spain sacks Catalan police chief as Madrid takes control

October 28, 2017

AFP

© Josep Lago, AFP | Members of the Catalan police, Mossos d’Esquadra, secure the area outside the Parc de la Ciutadella (Citadel Park) which houses the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona on October 10.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-10-28

Spain has sacked the chief of Catalonia’s regional police force, Josep Lluis Trapero, as the government in Madrid takes control of the autonomous region to block its push for independence.

Madrid dismissed the Catalan government, took over the administration and called a new election after the region’s parliament declared independence on Friday.

There have been doubts over how the Mossos d’Esquadra, as the Catalan police are called, would respond if ordered to evict sacked leader Carles Puigdemont and his government.

In an effort to defuse tensions, the regional police force urged its members to behave in a neutral manner and not to take sides, an internal note seen on Saturday by Reuters showed.

“A BITTERSWEET VICTORY FOR THESE CATALANS” – FRANCE 24 REPORTER AURORE DEPUIS

Trapero became a hero to the secessionists after his force took a much softer stance than national police in enforcing a government ban on an independence referendum on October 1.

The force is riven by distrust between those for and against independence and is estranged from Spain’s national police forces, Mossos and national police officers have told Reuters.

“Given that there is it is likely to be an increase in gatherings and rallies of citizens in all the territory and that there are people of different thoughts, we must remember that it is our responsibility to guarantee the security of all and help these to take place without incident,” the memo said.

EU, FRANCE, US REFUSE TO RECOGNISE CATALAN MOVE

Trapero’s dismissal was signed off by Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido.

Spain’s High Court last week banned Trapero from leaving Spain and seized his passport as part of an investigation for alleged sedition, although it did not order his arrest.

Prosecutors say he failed to give orders to rescue national police trapped inside a Barcelona building during pro-independence protests last month.

“MARIANO RAJOY HIMSELF HAS TAKEN OVER AS PRESIDENT OF CATALONIA” – DAVID ALANDETE, MANAGING EDITOR OF EL PAIS.
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(REUTERS)

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Catalonia declares independence as Spain prepares to impose direct rule

October 27, 2017

Spain’s leader Mariano Rajoy immediately tweets to say the rule of law will be restored

By Jon Sharman

The Independent

Catalonia declared independence from Spain less than an hour before a vote in the country’s Senate gave Madrid the power to seize the region’s autonomous powers.

The vote in the regional parliament followed a tense week of last-ditch negotiations between Madrid and Barecelona. Seventy of 135 Catalan deputies voted for independence, with 10 opposed and two blank ballot slips.

Opposition lawmakers had walked out of the chamber ahead of Friday’s vote in protest.

Rounds of applause broke out in the chamber as members of the parliament hugged and shook hands.

Thousands of people watched the voting process and the counting live on big screens outside Catalonia’s parliament in Barcelona, and cheered and danced after the motion was passed.

The motion calls for beginning an independence process that includes drafting Catalonia’s new top laws and opening negotiations “on equal footing” with Spanish authorities to establish co-operation.

Pido tranquilidad a todos los españoles. El Estado de Derecho restaurará la legalidad en Cataluña. MR

On Thursday Catalan president Carles Puigdemont had ruled out calling a snap election, thought to have been a potential way of defusing tension with the central government.

Mr Puigdemont said he had not received sufficient guarantees that Madrid would hold off on its attempts to take control of the region.

Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, tweeted immediately after the vote calling for calm. He said the rule of law would be restored in Catalonia.

Spain’s senate voted on Friday, shortly after the Catalan independence vote, to trigger Article 155 of the constitution and allow the imposition of direct rule.

The vote will give Madrid the authority to govern Catalonia is the first direct intervention by central authorities in the affairs of one of the country’s 17 autonomous areas.

Mr Rajoy will have the power to sack Mr Puigdemont and his cabinet among other measures. Mr Rajoy is understood to be planning immediately to enact the Article 155 provisions during an urgent meeting on Friday afternoon.

The crisis stems from an independence referendum, held earlier this month, that Spanish judges had declared unconstitutional.

Before it went ahead Madrid authorities confiscated ballot papers and closed polling stations, with clashes erupting in the streets.

An overwhelming majority of those who did vote favoured secession, but turnout was low and there is a substantial section of the Catalan population that wants to remain a part of Spain.

Following Friday’s independence vote, European Council president Donald Tusk said “nothing changes” for the EU, adding it would continue only to deal with the Madrid government.

Mr Tusk urged Spain to favour “force of argument, not argument of force” in addressing the independence declaration.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/catalonia-independence-latest-spain-direct-rule-catalan-parliament-president-a8023221.html

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Spanish PM Rajoy asks Senate for authority to depose Catalonian leader Puigdemont

October 27, 2017

AFP

© AFP file picture | Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (right) asked senators to depose Catalonia’s regional President Carles Puigdemont on October 27.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-10-27

Spain’s premier urged senators Friday to adopt radical measures to impose direct rule on rebel Catalonia and depose its president in a bid to halt the region’s independence bid.

Prime minister Mariano Rajoy asked parliament’s upper house, where his party holds a majority, to “proceed to the dismissal of the president of the Catalan government, his vice-president and all regional ministers.”

The senate is scheduled to vote later Friday on measures to depose Catalonia‘s secessionist government before the week is out, after the region held an unlawful independence referendum on October 1.

Senators gave Rajoy a standing ovation.

Many expect the region’s separatist leaders to push back with an independence declaration.

The Catalan parliament, where pro-secession parties hold sway, will meet in Barcelona where a proposal to vote on splitting from Spain could work its way onto the floor.

>>Article 155: Spain’s ‘nuclear option’ to stop Catalan independence

On Thursday, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont opted not to call elections for a new regional parliament — thought to be the only way to stave off Madrid’s imminent power grab.

Warning that seizure of control by the central government would escalate the crisis, he passed the buck to the regional parliament “to determine the consequences” of the threatened takeover — thus leaving the door open for a possible independence push.

‘MIXED REACTIONS IN BARCELONA’, SAYS FRANCE 24’S AURORE DUPUIS

Spain and Catalonia have been locked in a constitutional standoff since a “Yes” vote in the unregulated plebiscite which secessionist leaders hold up as a popular mandate for independence for the region of 7.5 million people.

Only about 43 percent of voters turned out, however, with many anti-secessionists staying away and others prevented from casting their ballot by Spanish police in a crackdown that turned violent.

>>Video: A Tango between Barcelona and Madrid

Based on the vote, Puigdemont threatened a declaration of independence, which Rajoy described Friday as “a challenge of unprecedented dimensions.”

Madrid has turned to Article 155 of the constitution — a never-before-used provision designed to rein in rebels among Spain’s 17 regions, which enjoy varying levels of autonomy.

Measures drawn up under the article are set to enter into force on Saturday, and will see the central government seek to temporarily take over Catalonia’s civil service, police, purse, and public broadcaster.

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria insisted Thursday the government was “fulfilling a legal obligation, a democratic obligation and a political obligation,” by its actions.

But the move is likely to anger Catalans, fiercely protective of their autonomy, even if divided on independence.

Independence supporters are ready to fight back.

Albert Botran, a regional lawmaker for the far-left CUP party that backs Puigdemont and wants to split from Spain, vowed Friday to “make it difficult for the new, illegitimate government to get away with it.”

“The first action will be resistance,” he told Catalonia Radio.

‘Impatient’ to leave

Catalonia’s parliament met to discuss the issue late Thursday, where opposition lawmakers pleaded with Puigdemont to find a solution to the standoff closely watched by a European Union nervous wary of nationalist and secessionist sentiment, particularly after Britain’s dramatic decision to leave the bloc.

“You still have time to return to legality and call elections,” Ines Arrimadas, regional leader of the anti-independence Ciudadanos party, appealed.

Catalans are fiercely protective of their language, culture and autonomy — restored after the 1939-75 dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

Fears for Catalonia’s economy have increased as uncertainty persists over the independence drive, with some 1,600 companies having moved their legal headquarters out of the region in recent weeks.

Catalonia accounts for about 16 percent of Spain’s population and a fifth of its economic output.

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Spain on tenterhooks ahead of Catalan crisis sessions — Regional parliament may actually take the step of declaring independence

October 27, 2017

The Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Two crucial meetings were to take place Friday in Spain that could decide the short-term future of a country undergoing its worst political crisis in decades.

Catalonia’s parliament will resume debating its response to the Spanish government’s plans to strip away its regional powers to halt it pushing toward independence. But in Madrid, Spain’s Senate was meeting to approve the government’s plans and set the intervention in motion under constitutional powers.

The government’s proposals include removing the Catalan government’s regional leaders from office and curtailing the authority of the region’s parliament.

The Catalan government  rejects the move and there is speculation the regional parliament may actually take the step of declaring independence from Spain later Friday.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont faces what could be his last day in power by joining lawmakers to decide whether to defy Spanish laws with the declaration.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is expected to address the Senate meeting and defend his demand for the extraordinary powers.

It will be the first time in four decades of democratic rule that the Madrid-based national government would directly run the affairs of one of the 17 semi-autonomous regions, a move that will likely fan the flames of the Catalan revolt.

Rajoy says the measures are aimed at restoring order and has promised to call a new regional election once that is achieved.

Puigdemont scrapped hopes of a possible end to the political deadlock on Thursday when he opted not to call an early election himself and halt the drift toward independence.

The parliamentary sessions in Madrid and Barcelona are likely to last several hours before each votes on their resolutions.

Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party has an absolute majority in the Senate, thus guaranteeing the approval of his proposals. It will then be up to government to decide which and when to implement.

Catalonia represents a fifth of Spain’s gross domestic product. Polls show its 7.5 million inhabitants are roughly evenly divided over independence.

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BBC News

Catalan crisis: Spain Senate to vote on emergency powers

Students with Catalan flags chanted “independence”.

The Spanish Senate is due to discuss a plan by the Madrid government to take over some of Catalonia’s autonomous powers, amid an escalating crisis over the region’s push for independence.

Earlier this month Catalonia held a disputed referendum on the issue.

The Senate is expected to pass the emergency measures, which include sacking the Catalan president.

Meanwhile the regional parliament has been debating a possible declaration of independence.

The debate began on Thursday, after Catalan President Carles Puigdemont failed to reveal a favoured course of action, and called on MPs to decide on a response.

Mr Puigdemont signed a declaration of independence following the 1 October vote, but immediately halted implementation and called for negotiations between Catalonia and the Spanish government.

The Catalan government said that of the 43% who took part in the referendum, 90% were in favour of independence.

However, the Constitutional Court ruled it was illegal.

Carles Puigdemont in parliament, 26 October
Carles Puigdemont (right) has been under pressure not to call a snap election. Reuters photo

How did Thursday’s debate unfold?

During Thursday’s Catalan parliamentary session, a government spokesman said a proposal to implement the results of a referendum on independence would be submitted to lawmakers on Friday.

Hard-line separatists continued their calls for an official declaration of independence.

“We will continue on the path to a Catalan republic,” an MP for the far-left CUP, which provides key support for the pro-independence governing coalition, said.

A Catalan government representative and a Spanish government minister fail to see eye to eye in a BBC interview

But Ines Arrimadas, leader of the anti-independence Citizens’s Party, accused Mr Puigdemont of missing countless opportunities to resolve the crisis through negotiation.

“You still have time to return to legality and call elections,” she said.

What will happen in the Spanish Senate on Friday?

The Senate is due to hold a vote on the government’s plan to trigger Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which empowers the government to take “all measures necessary to compel” a region in case of a crisis.

The article has never been used before.

Under the proposals announced by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy this week, Mr Puigdemont would be removed and new regional elections held. Madrid would take control of Catalonia’s finances, police and public media.

Mr Rajoy’s centre-right government has a majority in the Senate. The plan has also been approved by opposition parties.


Adding fuel to the fire

By Katya Adler, Europe Editor, BBC News in Barcelona

Article 155 of Spain’s 1978 constitution has never been used before in democratic Spain. And for good reason.

Spaniards call it their government’s “nuclear option”.

But on Friday the Spanish Senate is expected to vote in favour of triggering Article 155 and stripping the region of Catalonia of its autonomous powers.

The move is the only way, the Spanish government insists, to calm the Catalan crisis.

But Catalan leaders say such a move will simply add fuel to the fire – making it more likely that Friday will be the day that they officially declare an independent Catalan republic.

Friday’s front page headline of Spain’s Barcelona-based newspaper El Periodico tells the story. It reads: “Unilateral Declaration of Independence and Goodbye.”


More on the Catalan crisis

Catalonia in numbers

  • 16% of Spain’s population live in Catalonia, and it produces:
  • 25.6% of Spain’s exports
  • 19% of Spain’s GDP
  • 20.7% of foreign investment
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Thousands protest for independence in Catalonia — Some 450,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona on Saturday

October 21, 2017

AFP

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© PAU BARRENA / AFP | Catalan regional vice-president and chief of Economy and Finance Oriol Junqueras and Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont attend a demonstration on October 21, 2017 in Barcelona.

Video by Sarah MORRIS

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-10-21

Some 450,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona on Saturday, local police said, after Spain moved to dismiss Catalonia’s regional government to thwart its leaders’ independence bid.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was among the huge crowds filling the streets around the Paseo de Gracia boulevard, with many chanting  “independence” and “freedom”.

 People hold candles and a Catalan pro-independence "Estelada" flag during a demonstration in Barcelona against the arrest of two Catalan separatist leaders on October 17, 2017.
Catalonia’s independence referendum has thrown the country into crisis. AFP photo

The demonstration was originally called to protest against the detention of two influential separatist activists, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, who are being held on sedition charges accused of instigating protests in the run-up to Catalonia’s banned independence referendum on October 1.

‘They’ve trampled on our rights’

But Saturday’s move by Madrid to seize powers from the semi-autonomous region — which could include taking control of its police force and replacing its public media chiefs — was on the minds of many in the crowds.

“I feel totally outraged and extremely sad,” said Meritxell Agut, a 22-year-old bank worker.

“They’ve trampled on our rights and our ideas as Catalans,” she told AFP, adding: “They can destroy everything they want but we’ll keep on fighting.”

Related:

Crunch time for Catalan independence as leader addresses parliament

October 10, 2017

AFP

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© Pau Barrena / AFP | Protesters hold Spanish and Catalan flags during a demonstration called by “Societat Civil Catalana” (Catalan Civil Society) to support the unity of Spain on October 8, 2017 in Barcelona.

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-10-10

Spain’s separatism crisis faced a decisive moment Tuesday with Catalonia’s leader Carles Puigdemont to address regional lawmakers in a speech his supporters hope will be a unilateral declaration of independence.

Whether the 54-year-old Catalan president will actually go ahead with it in defiance of the central government and national courts, play for time or simply back down is still a mystery.

At stake is the future of a region of 7.5 million people, one of Spain’s economic powerhouses whose independence drive has raised concern for stability in the European Union.

Measures will be ‘taken’

Political leaders in Catalonia, Spain and Europe have urged Catalan separatists to back down and ease the country’s biggest upheaval since it returned to democracy in the 1970s.

But Puigdemont says an independence referendum that took place on October 1 despite a ban by Madrid justifies secession.

About 90 percent of the 2.29 million who cast ballots voted to split from Spain, as Catalans who reject independence largely boycotted an illegal poll that was severely repressed by police.

Puigdemont hinted in a weekend interview that the region would go ahead with the declaration if Madrid continued to refuse dialogue.

“We have said yes to so many mediation options that have been proposed,” he told Catalan broadcaster TV3.

“The days are going by and if the Spanish state does not give a positive response, we will do what we set out to do.”

Such a move “will not go unanswered by the government”, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria retorted on Monday.

“If this gentleman unilaterally declares independence, measures will have to be taken,” she told the COPE radio station.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at the weekend refused to rule out an unprecedented constitutional manoeuvre to impose direct rule on the semi-autonomous region — a move likely to heighten tensions still further.

Mounting pressure

Catalan separatists have come under intense pressure both at home and abroad to halt plans to break away from Spain.

On Monday evening, Ada Colau, the popular mayor of Barcelona, warned a unilateral declaration of independence would put “social cohesion” at risk.

The results of the referendum “cannot be an endorsement to proclaim independence but they constitute the possibility of opening a dialogue and international mediation”, she said.

In France, Nathalie Loiseau, minister for European affairs, said that “if there were a declaration of independence it would be unilateral and it wouldn’t be recognised”.

Meanwhile German Chancellor Angela Merkel backed Spanish unity in a telephone call with Rajoy over the weekend.

The pressure also came from the street itself.

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of Spanish flag-waving demonstrators packed central Barcelona to protest against the independence plan.

Over in the other camp, the ANC, an influential Catalan pro-independence association, called on supporters to come watch Tuesday’s parliamentary session live on screens in front of the regional parliament in Barcelona.

Business worries

The crisis has caused uncertainty in business circles.

Following the lead of the region’s two major banks, CaixaBank and Sabadell, a string of companies have moved their legal headquarters — but not their employees — from Catalonia to other parts of Spain.

On Monday, highway operator Abertis, telecoms company Cellnex and real estate firm Colonial became the latest to announce their move from Barcelona to Madrid.

Recent opinion polls indicate that Catalans are split on independence, though regional leaders said police violence during the referendum had turned many against Madrid.

Demands for independence in Catalonia, which has its own language and cultural traditions, date back centuries.

But a 2010 move by Spain’s Constitutional Court to water down a statute that gave Catalonia additional powers, combined with an economic crisis in Spain, sparked a surge in support for independence.

An ‘unknown disaster’ looms in Catalonia’s independence crisis — “The Catalonian government runs the risk of losing control of the situation entirely”

October 8, 2017

Masses of Catalans gathered in Barcelona this weekend to call for dialog and protest further confrontation with Spain. Their demand? More solutions, fewer egos. Mariel Müller reports from Barcelona.

A Spanish unity demonstration in Barcelona (picture-alliance/dpa/N. Carvalho Ochoa)

On Saturday, Sant Jaume Square in the center of Barcelona was a sea of white T-shirts. The choice of clothing was intended to send a message of peace. Thousands of residents were gathered here between the Catalonian presidential palace and Barcelona city hall in answer to an anonymous call to demonstration. And on Sunday, hundreds of thousands once more took the Barcelona’s streets under two yellow-and-red flags — that of Spain and that of the autonomous region of Catalonia (above).

The weekend’s goal: to demand that leaders on both sides of an increasingly intense conflict, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont, begin a dialog.

Read more: Anti-independence Catalans have been ‘abandoned’ by Spain’s central government

“They must finally sit down with one another and talk, things cannot keep on like this,” said a man that came to Saturday’s protest with his daughter on his shoulders. He says he has an opinion about Catalonian independence, but that is not what is called for here. “If I had seen just one flag, no matter if Spanish or Catalonian, I would have left immediately,” he said. Saturday’s flags were all white, emblazoned with the words “parlem” and “hablemos,” Catalan and Spanish respectively for “Let’s talk.”

Read more: Catalan independence: Spain rejects calls for mediation by Catalan President Carles Puigdemont

A young woman explains: “This is a people’s movement, not one sponsored by a political party.” That is also the reason that this particular protest is so much smaller that those which have been held over the last few weeks, such as the massive “Si” (Yes) rally that was staged before Catalonia held its controversial independence referendum on October 1. The demonstrator said it is hard to get hundreds of thousands of people out on the streets if a political party or major organization is not behind the call. And she is right: After about three hours, Saturday’s demonstration was over and the square was once again the stage for newlyweds armed with confetti cannons.

Protesters in front of the presidential palace in Barcelona (DW/M. Müller)Protesters in front of the presidential palace in Barcelona on Saturday

‘We are the silent majority’

But what will happen if Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont really does declare independence on Tuesday? Will the Spanish government invoke Article 155 of the Constitution and nullify Catalonian autonomy? Many are worried. Will Puigdemont be arrested? How will his supporters react? Will there be more violence? Those are all questions that the demonstrators are asking. One answer is repeatedly voiced, louder and clearer than any other: “The politicians should do their damn job — for us. They should let the people decide instead of trying to push their own political agendas at any cost,” said one agitated woman.

There is no doubt the majority of the people do not want independence. “We are the silent majority. We are the 60 percent that refused to vote, or voted ‘no.'” Indeed, the overwhelming majority of those gathered on Saturday say they are decidedly against breaking away from Spain.

The Catalonian government, however, says that 90 percent of those citizens that cast ballots in the contested independence referendum are for independence. They represent some 43 percent of all eligible Catalonian voters.

Read more: Catalan independence – what you need to know

There are also a number of citizens that are open to negotiations, says Oriol Bartomeu, a political scientist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. “Most Catalans want to remain within Spain if Catalonia’s autonomous powers are expanded and if Spain truly transform itself into a pluralist system.” The expert adds that if Madrid had taken steps in that direction when it had the chance to do so years ago, the situation today would look very different.

Political Scientist Oriol Bartomeu (DW/Mariel Müller)Bartomeu said that Madrid could have acted in years past to prevent the present crisis

‘The Spanish side feels like it will win’

But right now that is not the case, and Madrid has refused to give an inch. “The Spanish side has the feeling that it will win out, so why should it make any concessions?” Bartomeu explains. It is currently pursing a strategy that says, either Catalonia gives in completely or it unilaterally declares independence. “And that would be very risky for the government of Catalonia, because it does not have majority support among the population,” he adds. Should that scenario come to pass, the Spanish government would then invoke Article 155. And then? “That’s the unknown disaster.”

One group that could greatly influence the Catalan decision is the left-wing party Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), which guarantees President Puigdemont’s parliamentary majority. Party spokesman Quim Arrufat says that he “does not want to take any unilateral steps.” Especially not in the wake of the heavy-handed crackdown meted out by Spanish police on the day of the referendum, he clarifies. “If there is movement on the Spanish side, then we will wait and see what happens.” Arrufat says that the CUP is prepared to start a dialog with Madrid.

CUP Spokesperson Quim Arrufat in Barcelona (DW/M. Müller)CUP spokesperon Arrufat says his party is open to dialog, but he doesn’t see way to back down from the current confrontation with Madrid

Separatist movement could become more radical

Ultimately, Arrafut believes the question is not if Catalonia will declare independence but when. He thinks that Tuesday, the day President Puigdemont is set to address Catalonia’s parliament, will be too soon. Will Puigdemont back down? “No,” says the party spokesman.

Political scientist Bartomeu says the situation is precarious. “If the Puigdemont government says, ‘let’s forget independence,’ it will have a big problem on its hands. They can say it, but that won’t mean that the separatist movement’s two million supporters will suddenly stop protesting — quite the opposite.” Then the Catalonian government will run the risk of losing control of the situation entirely, he explains. “The movement will be smaller, but much more radical,” warns Bartomeu. “At that point, no one can rule out violence between separatists and police.”

http://www.dw.com/en/an-unknown-disaster-looms-in-catalonias-independence-crisis/a-40866027

Barcelo: Huge Crowd Gathers Sunday for Pro-Unity Event

October 8, 2017

AFP

© Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP file picture | Spanish pro-unity supporters demonstrate against independence in Catalonia, on September 30, 2017 in Barcelona

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-10-08

A huge crowd is expected to rally on Sunday in Barcelona against plans by Catalonia’s separatist leaders to declare independence following a banned secession referendum.

The demonstration comes as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy warned that he won’t rule out suspending Catalonia’s regional autonomy to stop them from declaring independence.

“The ideal would be not to have to take drastic measures,” he said in an interview published in daily El Pais.

People are set to travel from across Spain to the Catalan capital for the rally which will be held exactly one week since the contested vote that has triggered Spain’s worst political crisis in a generation.

The Barcelona protest — organised by the Societat Civil Catalana, the main anti-independence group in Catalonia — gets underway at noon (10H00 GMT).

Organisers of the demonstration say they represent the “silent majority” of Catalans who oppose independence. Their slogan for the rally is: “Enough, lets recover good sense!”

Tens of thousands of demonstrators, many dressed in white, hit the streets of Madrid and other cities across Spain on Saturday to demand dialogue to end the dispute.

Tensions soared after police cracked down on voters during the banned October 1 Catalan independence referendum, prompting separatist leaders to warn they would unilaterally declare independence in days.

Tentative signs emerged Friday that the two sides may be seeking to defuse the crisis after Madrid offered a first apology to Catalans injured by police during the vote.

But uncertainty still haunts the country as Catalan leaders have not backed off from plans to declare the region independent.

‘Still time’

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont had been due to appear at the regional parliament on Monday but postponed it by a day, a spokesman said.

It remains unclear what he plans to say, although some separatist leaders hope he will use the opportunity to make a declaration of independence.

Spain could respond by suspending the region’s existing autonomous status and imposing direct rule from Madrid.

“I don’t rule out anything,” Rajoy told El Pais in an interview published Sunday when asked about applying the constitutional provision that allows the suspension.

“But I must do things at the proper time… I would like the threat of an independence referendum to be withdrawn as quickly as possible.

Rajoy in the interview assured Catalan leaders that there “is still time” to backtrack and avoid triggering a tough response from the central government in Madrid.

‘Break a people’

The crisis has raised fears of unrest in Catalonia, northeastern region about the size of Belgium that is home to 7.5 million people that accounts for a fifth of Spain’s economy.

Angelo Rossini Calvo, 38, said he planned to attend the protest in Barcelona because he felt the separatist lawmakers did not have a big enough majority in the Catalan parliament to call the referendum.

“You can’t call an important referendum like this, break a people and a country because you have one seat more,” the cabin crew instructor told AFP at his flat in central Barcelona on the eve of the demonstration.

Pro-separatist lawmakers won a narrow majority of 72 seats in the 135-seat Catalan parliament in a regional election in September 2015 billed as a proxy vote on independence, capturing 47.8 percent of all ballots cast.

They then pushed through a law paving the way for the independence referendum held on October 1 with little debate in parliament despite rulings from Spain’s Constitutional Court declaring such a vote illegal.

Business pressure

The Catalan government on Friday published final results from the referendum indicating that 90 percent of voters backed the idea of breaking away from Spain.

Turnout was 43 percent as Catalans who reject independence largely boycotted the polls.

The vote was not held according to regular electoral standards, without regular voter lists or observers.

Businesses and the government have kept up economic pressure on Catalonia, with several big companies announcing moves to shift their headquarters to other parts of Spain.

Rajoy’s government passed a decree on Friday to make it quicker for businesses to shift their legal domiciles away from one region to another.

Recent polls had indicated that Catalans are split on independence, though leaders said the violence during the referendum turned many against the state authorities.

With its own language and cultural traditions, demands for independence in Catalonia date back centuries but have surged during recent years of economic crisis.

Related:

Catalonia: People gather in Madrid, Barcelona calling for talks to defuse Spain’s worst political crisis for decades

October 7, 2017

Image may contain: one or more people, crowd, sky and outdoor

People gather in Barcelona to heal speakers address the issues in Catalonia, October 7, 2017 . (photo credit ERIC GAILLARD for Reuters)

BY REUTERS
 OCTOBER 7, 2017 15:30

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy insists the region must give up the independence push.

MADRID/BARCELONA – Thousands of people gathered in Madrid and Barcelona on Saturday as Catalonia prepared to declare independence, many dressed in white and calling for talks to defuse Spain’s worst political crisis for decades.

The wealthy northeastern region of Catalonia, with its own language and culture, has long claimed to be distinct from the rest of the country and on Sunday held a referendum on leaving Spain, a vote the constitutional court had banned.

The Catalan authorities say that a majority of those who voted supported a split from Spain, something Madrid says is illegal under the country’s 1978 constitution.

The political stand-off has divided the country, pushed banks and companies to move their headquarters outside Catalonia and shaken market confidence in the Spanish economy, prompting calls from the European Commission for Catalan and Spanish leaders to find a political solution.

“I’ve come because I feel very Spanish and makes me very sad what’s happened,” Rosa Borras, 47, an unemployed secretary who had joined a noisy gathering in central Madrid, said.

Borras, wearing a “Catalonia, we love you” sticker and surrounded by thousands waving Spanish flags, added: “I wanted to be here for unity, because I also feel very Catalan. My family lives in Catalonia.”

While Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has said he is open to mediation, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy insists the region gives up the independence push, which grew in strength during a near-six year economic crisis, before he will sit down to talk.

Rajoy’s government mobilized thousands of national police to stop Sunday’s vote, leading to clashes with would-be voters as they tried to close polling stations in schools and remove ballot boxes.

The police violence drew widespread condemnation and forced the government to issue an apology on Friday, although tensions continued to rise after reports that plans for a unilateral declaration of independence will be handed to the Catalan parliament on Tuesday.

EU CONCERNS

The crisis has also caused disquiet among Spain’s European Union partners and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has discussed it with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, an EU official told Reuters.

Concern is growing in EU capitals about the negative impact of the crisis on the Spanish economy, the fourth largest in the euro zone, and on possible spillovers to other economies.

European finance ministers, gathering in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday for a regular meeting, could discuss the issue, although it is not formally on the agenda, EU officials said.

The support given in public statements by EU leaders to Rajoy is combined with concern expressed in private about how the Spanish government’s use of police to prevent Catalans from voting last week in an independence referendum could backfire.

Some EU states are worried that talk of Catalan independence could fuel secessionist feelings in other parts of Europe.