Spain marks na­tional day with unity show in Cata­lan cri­sis

Oman Daily Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

MADRID: Spain cel­e­brated its na­tional day on 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.

The coun­try is suf­fer­ing its worst po­lit­i­cal cri­sis in a gen­er­a­tion after sep­a­ratists in the wealthy north­east­ern re­gion voted in a banned ref­er­en­dum on Oc­to­ber 1 to split from Spain.

To mark the na­tional hol­i­day, Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy and King Felipe VI at­tended a tra­di­tional mil­i­tary pa­rade in cen­tral Madrid.

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.

But events were over­shad­owed by the crash of a Eurofighter jet, which went down on its route back to base after tak­ing part in the dis­play, killing its pi­lot.

Sep­a­rate pro-unity ral­lies, in­clud­ing one by mem­bers of a far­right move­ment, were or­gan­ised 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 and ve­hi­cles 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 has vowed to do ev­ery­thing in his power to pre­vent Cata­lan se­ces­sion.

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

But he quickly asked re­gional law­mak­ers to sus­pend it to al­low for dia­logue 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.

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.

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

While Puigde­mont in­sists the Oc­to­ber 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 recog­nised by Europe and now ev­ery­one knows it will have costs,” he told law­mak­ers.

Ra­joy’s an­nounce­ment of dead­line was a pre­lim­i­nary the 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.

“We ask for dia­logue and they an­swer by putting ar­ti­cle 155 on the ta­ble. Un­der­stood,” Puigde­mont tweeted late on Wed­nes­day.

AFP

Spain’s King Felipe IV re­views the troops dur­ing the Span­ish Na­tional Day mil­i­tary pa­rade in Madrid. —

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