Catalonia Nears Possible Independence Proclamation
BARCELONA (Dispatches) - Police tightened security at Catalonia’s parliament on Tuesday as regional leader Carles Puigdemont prepared to address a session that may unilaterally declare independence from Spain despite Madrid’s warnings of counter-measures.
Puigdemont, a 54-year-old former journalist, was holding a cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning to decide how to press an independence drive that has stirred powerful emotions in the region and raised concern in European Union partner states.
Catalan police armed with automatic rifles stood guard at Barcelona’s Parc de la Ciutadella which houses the elegant 18th century building. Spanish national police, decried by separatists over their use of force at an Oct. 1 referendum, were not to be seen.
A declaration of independence would deepen Spain’s biggest political crisis since an attempted military coup in 1981 and would almost certainly draw tough counter-measures from Madrid, possibly including suspension of the regional government.
Pro-independence demonstrators were due to gather before the parliament building under the slogan “Hello Republic” to mark Puigdemont’s speech last evening.
Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated against breaking away in Barcelona at the weekend, bearing red-yellow Spanish flags through the city centre. That rally fell a week after some 900 people were injured when police fired rubber bullets and stormed crowds with truncheons to disrupt a referendum ruled illegal in Madrid.
Puigdemont has said he is determined to apply a law passed by the Catalan assembly which called for a declaration of independence within days if Catalans voted in favour in the Oct. 1 referendum.