Farm­ers drive for Cat­alo­nia

Trac­tors make way through Barcelona

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen) - - WORLD NEWS -

Scores of Cata­lan farm­ers on trac­tors rum­bled into cen­tral Barcelona driv­ing down the city’s broad boule­vards in a show of sup­port for a po­ten­tially ex­plo­sive vote on whether the pros­per­ous re­gion should break away from the rest of Spain and be­come Europe’s new­est coun­try.

The Span­ish gov­ern­ment and se­ces­sion-minded au­thor­i­ties in the north­east­ern Cat­alo­nia re­gion were on a col­li­sion course, with the in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum still planned for Sun­day de­spite ef­forts by the courts and po­lice to stop it.

The trac­tors car­ried the Cata­lan pro-in­de­pen­dence flag, called the es­te­lada, to the of­fice of the na­tional gov­ern­ment’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Barcelona.

Sim­i­lar trac­tor protests were be­ing held across Cat­alo­nia. The re­gion’s big­gov­ern­ment gest farm­ers’ union said the demon­stra­tions were part of their fight for “democ­racy and lib­erty”.

With weeks of an­tag­o­nism and ten­sion com­ing to a head, nei­ther side was show­ing signs of backing down from a con­fronta­tion that has pitched Spain into a po­lit­i­cal and con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis.

The Madrid-based Span­ish gov­ern­ment has main­tained the bal­lot can­not and will not hap­pen be­cause it con­tra­venes the con­sti­tu­tion, which refers to “the in­dis­sol­u­ble unity of the Span­ish na­tion”.

Any vote on Cata­lan se­ces­sion would have to be held across all of Spain, the says. “This se­ces­sion­ist process has been il­le­gal from the start,” gov­ern­ment spokesman Inigo Men­dez de Vigo said Fri­day.

“Since the ref­er­en­dum . . . won’t have any po­lit­i­cal con­se­quence, pur­su­ing it won’t do any­thing but ex­tend the dam­age, the harm and the dis­in­te­gra­tion that it is al­ready do­ing.”

Act­ing on court or­ders, po­lice have con­fis­cated about 10mil­lion bal­lot pa­pers and some 1.3mil­lion posters ad­ver­tis­ing the ref­er­en­dum, and have blocked the dis­tri­bu­tion of bal­lot boxes.

The Cata­lan re­gional gov­ern­ment and lo­cal civic groups in­sist they are en­ti­tled to ex­er­cise their demo­cratic rights and in­tend to do so re­gard­less of the ob­sta­cles.

Their griev­ances in­clude what they say is Madrid’s ig­nor­ing of the re­gion’s de­mands for a greater de­gree of fis­cal pow­ers.

With Barcelona as its re­gional cap­i­tal, Cat­alo­nia con­trib­utes a fifth of Spain’s econ­omy. On Fri­day, the Cata­lan gov­ern­ment un­veiled white plas­tic con­tain­ers it said would be used as bal­lot boxes. A ban im­posed by cen­tral gov­ern­ment on in­ter­na­tional flights ser­vic­ing air­ports in Iraq’s Kur­dish re­gion has gone into ef­fect.

The ban has so far been the most sig­nif­i­cant es­ca­la­tion amid height­ened ten­sions, largely marked by threats from Bagh­dad and neigh­bour­ing coun­tries, fol­low­ing the con­tro­ver­sial ref­er­en­dum on sup­port for in­de­pen­dence held by Iraq’s Kurds on Mon­day.

Hun­dreds of pas­sen­gers lined up in the hours be­fore an Iraqi gov­ern­ment or­der that in­ter­na­tional air­lines halt all flights in and out of the cities of Ir­bil and Su­laimaniyah in Kur­dish ter­ri­tory kicked in.

The vol­ume of pas­sen­gers was higher than usual but no ad­di­tional flights were added to ac-

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