Friday, 20 October, 2017

Catalonia: Decision expected on independence from Spain

Marchers in yesterday’s Pro Unity rally in Barcelona Marchers in yesterday’s Pro Unity rally in Barcelona
Wilma Wheeler | 11 October, 2017, 00:19

Some separatist politicians say Carles Puigdemont has no other choice but to make a declaration of independence for the wealthy northeastern region, which has a population of 7.5 million people. "We are facing a tremendous unknown".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stressed her backing for the "unity of Spain" in a phone call with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy amid a threat by Catalan separatists to declare independence, her spokesman said Monday.

He has also threatened to suspend the region's existing autonomous status.

Caixabank, Spain's number 3 bank, and Banco Sabadell, the number 5, have both moved their head offices out of Catalonia last week following an independence referendum that the Madrid government attempted to block. "In history, declarations of independence by Catalonia have fared very badly". It said its priority was to protect "clients, shareholders and employees" given the current political and social situation.

Although he did not say which specific charges Mr Puigdemont might face, according to El Español, Mr Casado warned that in Spain the crimes of sedition carry a maximum prison sentence of 15 years and rebellion against the state 25 years.

Hundreds of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators packed central Barcelona on Sunday to rally against plans by separatist leaders to declare Catalonia independent following a banned secession referendum.

"Many people believe - and he seems to be moving in that direction - that he will use this opportunity to declare, or to announce the results of the referendum which, as far as he was concerned, were overwhelmingly in favor of independence", Dominic Thomas, chair of the department of French and francophone studies at the University of California Los Angeles, told CNN.

"Many people stayed home and didn't vote (Sunday) so the whole question of the mandate that he would have in speaking before that Parliament and declaring independence would be challenged".

Although the Catalan government are of the opinion that over 90% of voters voted in favour of independence, opinion polls and analysts are of the the opinion that this may not be the case as only 43% of registered voters turned up for the referendum.

The Madrid government, grappling with Spain's biggest political crisis since an attempted military coup in 1981, made it clear that it would respond immediately to any such unilateral declaration. "The ideal would be not to have to take drastic measures", he said. Rajoy assured Catalan leaders that there "is still time" to backtrack and avoid triggering a tough response from the central government in Madrid.

Spain called the referendum illegal and police in riot gear moved in on the day of the vote to try to forcibly shut it down, firing rubber bullets at unarmed protesters.


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