Holiday feted amid crisis
MADRID — Thousands of Catalans who want their region to remain in Spain marked the country’s national day Thursday, marching through Barcelona waving both Spanish and Catalan flags and shouting “I am Spanish,” as the region’s threats of independence have left the country in crisis.
In Barcelona, Catalonia’s capital, a crowd that local police said numbered 65,000 marched to a central square, some with their faces in the red and yellow colors of both the Spanish and Catalan flags and shouting “Viva Espana” — “Long live Spain.”
The slogan of the march was “Yes to Catalonia. Spain, too,” supporting Catalan autonomy, but within Spain as a whole.
Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont announced Tuesday that he was proceeding with a declaration of Catalan independence, but proposed freezing its implementation for a few weeks to allow for dialogue and mediation with the national government in Madrid.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has asked Puigdemont to clarify whether or not he had actually declared independence, adding that the Catalan leader’s response would be crucial in deciding “events over the coming days.” He hinted that Spain could take control or partial control of Catalonia under an article of the Spanish constitution.
Polls indicate that Catalonia’s 7.5 million residents are evenly divided over secession. The region contributes a fifth of Spain’s $1.3 trillion economy.