Hol­i­day feted amid cri­sis

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - WORLD - By Ciaran Giles and Aritz Parra Ciaran Giles and Aritz Parra are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers.

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.

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