Cata­lans against in­de­pen­dence ef­fort fill Barcelona streets

The New Zealand Herald - - WORLD -

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of sup­port­ers of a uni­fied Spain filled Barcelona’s streets yes­ter­day in one of the big­gest shows of force yet by the so-called silent ma­jor­ity that has watched as regional po­lit­i­cal lead­ers push for Cata­lan in­de­pen­dence.

Po­lit­i­cal par­ties op­pos­ing a split by Catalonia from Spain had a small lead in an opin­ion poll pub­lished yes­ter­day, the first since Madrid called a regional elec­tion to try to re­solve the coun­try’s worst po­lit­i­cal cri­sis in four decades.

Polls and re­cent elec­tions have shown that about half the elec­torate in the wealthy north­east­ern re­gion, which is al­ready au­ton­o­mous, op­pose se­ces­sion from Spain, but a vo­cal in­de­pen­dence move­ment has brought the cur­rent cri­sis to a head.

Spain’s Cen­tral gov­ern­ment called an elec­tion for De­cem­ber 21 on Satur­day af­ter sack­ing Catalonia’s Pres­i­dent Car­les Puigde­mont, dis­solv­ing its Par­lia­ment and dis­miss­ing its Gov­ern­ment. That fol­lowed the as­sem­bly’s uni­lat­eral dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence in a vote boy­cotted by three na­tional par­ties.

The regional Gov­ern­ment claimed it had a man­date to push ahead with in­de­pen­dence fol­low­ing an un­of­fi­cial ref­er­en­dum on Oc­to­ber 1 which was ruled il­le­gal un­der Span­ish law and mostly boy­cotted by union­ists.

Wav­ing thou­sands of Span­ish flags and singing Viva Es­pana, pro­test­ers yes­ter­day turned out in the largest dis­play of sup­port for a united Spain since the be­gin­ning of the cri­sis — un­der­lin­ing the depth of di­vi­sion in Catalonia it­self.

“I‘m here to de­fend Span­ish unity and the law,” said Al­fonso Machado, 55, a sales­man standing with a lit­tle girl with Span­ish flags in her hair.

“Know­ing that in the end there won’t be in­de­pen­dence, I feel sorry for all the peo­ple tricked into think­ing there could be and the di­vi­sions they’ve driven through Cata­lan so­ci­ety.” The poll of 1000 peo­ple by Sigma Dos for news­pa­per El Mundo showed union­ist par­ties win­ning 43.4 per cent sup­port and pro-in­de­pen­dence par­ties 42.5 per cent.

The sur­vey was taken from Mon­day to Thurs­day, just as the cen­tral gov­ern­ment pre­pared to take con­trol of Catalonia.

Madrid said on Sun­day that se­ces­sion­ist politi­cians, in­clud­ing Puigde­mont, were free to take part in the elec­tion. The hard­line CUP has been un­clear if it would.

The de­posed Cata­lan Gov­ern­ment will soon have to make dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions, Puigde­mont’s for­mer deputy Oriol Jun­queras said on Sun­day in an editorial in on­line news­pa­per El Punt Avui. He stopped short of say­ing his ERC party would take part in the elec­tion.

At yes­ter­day’s rally, for­mer Euro­pean Par­lia­ment Pres­i­dent Josep Bor­rell called for union­ist vot­ers to turn out in De­cem­ber to en­sure in­de­pen­dence sup­port­ers lose their stran­gle­hold on the regional Par­lia­ment.

Pic­ture / AP

Sup­port­ers of a uni­fied Spain filled the streets of Barcelona yes­ter­day.

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