Spain marks national day with show of unity amid Catalan crisis
SPAIN marks its national day on Thursday with a show of unity by opponents of Catalonian independence, a day after the Central Government gave the region’s separatist leader until next week to clarify whether he intends to push ahead with secession.
The country is in the midst of its worst political crisis in a generation after separatists in the wealthy north-eastern region voted in a banned referendum on October 1 to split from Spain.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and King Felipe VI are due to attend a traditional military parade in central Madrid, where Spanish flags have been tied to balconies and windows around the city by pro-unity supporters on the nation-wide holiday.
Armed forces will march down Madrid’s Paseo de la Castellana boulevard to mark the day that Christopher Columbus first arrived in the Americas in 1492 while a pro-unity rally by members of the far-right is expected in the Catalan capital Barcelona.
Rajoy has vowed to do everything in his power to prevent Catalan secession and his Government said on Wednesday that it would take control of the region if it insisted on breaking away. The warning came after Catalonia’s President Carles Puigdemont announced Tuesday that he had accepted the mandate for “Catalonia to become an independent state” and signed an independence declaration.
The legal validity of the declaration was unclear. After holding an emergency cabinet meeting, Rajoy told lawmakers that Puigdemont had until next Monday to decide if he planned to push ahead with secession and until next Thursday to reconsider, otherwise Madrid would suspend Catalonia’s regional autonomy.
The deadline set the clock ticking on Spain’s most serious political emergency since its return to democracy four decades ago.
World leaders are watching closely and uncertainty over the fate of the region of 7.5 million people has damaged business confidence, with several listed firms already moving their legal headquarters out of Catalonia.
A construction worker looks at a new apartment block draped in a giant Spanish flag in a suburb of Madrid on Wednesday during its national day celebrations.