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.

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