Spain marks nat’l day with show of unity

The Korea Times - - WORLD - MADRID (AFP) —

Spain cel­e­brated its na­tional day Thurs­day with a show of unity in the face of Cata­lan in­de­pen­dence ef­forts, a day af­ter the cen­tral gov­ern­ment gave the re­gion’s sep­a­ratist leader a dead­line to aban­don his se­ces­sion bid.

But events were over­shad­owed when a Eurofighter jet crashed about 300 kilo­me­ters (180 miles) south­east of Madrid while re­turn­ing to base af­ter tak­ing part in a tra­di­tional mil­i­tary dis­play, killing the pi­lot.

To mark the na­tional hol­i­day, Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy and King Felipe VI at­tended the pa­rade in cen­tral Madrid as the coun­try strug­gles with its worst po­lit­i­cal cri­sis in a gen­er­a­tion.

Armed forces marched along Madrid’s Paseo de la Castel­lana boule­vard to com­mem­o­rate the day that Christo­pher Colum­bus first ar­rived in the Amer­i­cas in 1492.

Sep­a­rate pro-unity ral­lies, in­clud­ing one by mem­bers of a far-right move­ment, were or­ga­nized in the Cata­lan cap­i­tal Barcelona.

In Madrid, cheer­ing crowds lined the streets, wav­ing red and yel­low Span­ish flags and some cry­ing “Viva Es­pana!” as air force jets and he­li­copters swooped over­head.

Some teenagers climbed trees to get a bet­ter look as thou­sands of troops, ve­hi­cles — and even a kha­k­i­capped brown billy goat — pa­raded through cen­tral Madrid.

“I love to see peo­ple wav­ing our na­tional flag,” said Beatriz Trap­ero, who was watch­ing with her hus­band. “There used to be a cer­tain shy­ness in show­ing it but now it seems not so much.”

Ra­joy’s gov­ern­ment says it is ready to take con­trol of the re­gion af­ter Cata­lan pres­i­dent Car­les Puigde­mont’s an­nounce­ment Tues­day that he ac­cepted a man­date for “Cat­alo­nia to be­come an in­de­pen­dent state.”

But he im­me­di­ately sus­pended the dec­la­ra­tion, call­ing for more time for talks with Madrid.

Ra­joy re­sponded that Puigde­mont had un­til next Mon­day to de­cide if he planned to push ahead with se­ces­sion and then un­til next Thurs­day to re­con­sider, oth­er­wise Madrid would trig­ger con­sti­tu­tional steps that could sus­pend Cat­alo­nia’s re­gional au­ton­omy.

An in­flu­en­tial pro-in­de­pen­dence group, the Cata­lan Na­tional As­sem­bly which has staged mas­sive demon­stra­tions in fa­vor of se­ces­sion in the past, called on Puigde­mont to lift the sus­pen­sion of the in­de­pen­dence dec­la­ra­tion, say­ing in a state­ment Thurs­day that it made no sense to keep it “given Spain’s re­jec­tion of any di­a­logue.”

World lead­ers are watch­ing closely and un­cer­tainty over the fate of the north­east re­gion of 7.5 million peo­ple has dam­aged busi­ness con­fi­dence, with sev­eral listed firms al­ready mov­ing their le­gal head­quar­ters out of Cat­alo­nia.

Rat­ings agency Stan­dard and Poor’s said the re­gion’s econ­omy risked slid­ing into re­ces­sion if the cri­sis dragged on long term.

Cat­alo­nia is deeply di­vided on the is­sue, with polls sug­gest­ing Cata­lans are roughly evenly split on whether to go it alone.

While Puigde­mont in­sists the Oct. 1 ref­er­en­dum gave him a man­date for in­de­pen­dence and has said he still wants di­a­logue with Madrid, Ra­joy has re­jected calls for me­di­a­tion and re­fuses to ne­go­ti­ate on any­thing un­til the sep­a­ratists aban­don their in­de­pen­dence drive.

“It is not peace­ful, it is not free, it will not be rec­og­nized by Europe and now ev­ery­one knows it will have costs,” he told law­mak­ers.

Ra­joy’s an­nounce­ment of the dead­line was a pre­lim­i­nary step to­wards in­vok­ing ar­ti­cle 155 of the Span­ish con­sti­tu­tion, which al­lows Madrid to im­pose con­trol over its de­volved re­gions — an un­prece­dented move that some fear could lead to un­rest.


Demon­stra­tors hold Span­ish and Cat­alo­nian flags as they take part in a rally to mark Spain’s Na­tional Day in Barcelona, north­east­ern Spain, Thurs­day. The rally held un­der motto “Cat­alo­nia yes, Spain too” was against Cat­alo­nian In­de­pen­dence.

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