Catalonia: Spaniards face tense week amid independence standoff

Frederick Owens
October 10, 2017

Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian-born author known for his right-wing views, is attending the rally and has denounced Catalan independence, calling it a nationalist movement that will bring down Spain.

Catalan authorities say the "Yes" side won the referendum with 90 percent of the vote, though only 43 percent of the region's 5.3 million eligible voters turned out in polling that was marred by police raids of polling stations on orders to confiscate ballot boxes.

Puigdemont will address the Catalan parliament at 6 p.m. (1600 GMT) on Tuesday on "the current political situation" amid speculation he could ask the assembly to declare independence.

"We are going to stop independence from happening".

Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards rallied Sunday in a tide of red and yellow national flags in what is the worst upheaval since the country returned to democracy in the 1970s. Rajoy has warned Catalonia not to act on an October 1 independence referendum.

Others called for dialogue.

Sunday's demonstration in Barcelona was organised by the anti-independence group Catalan Civil Society to mobilise what it believes is a "silent majority" of citizens in Catalonia who oppose independence. Pro-independence protests were attracting large numbers and he benefited politically from a violent crackdown by Spanish police during the referendum voting.

Backing also came from European heavyweights Germany and France.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says he will not rule out using constitutional powers to take away Catalonia's autonomous status, if the region declares independence.

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Mr Rajoy told Catalan leaders that there is still time to backtrack and avoid Madrid taking over the region's government.

Kofi Annan, in his role as chairman of The Elders, a group of notable public figures formed in 2007 to promote peace, said "consultation and not confrontation" was needed.

"Escalation will not benefit anyone", she said, urging both sides to begin dialogue with each other and for Rajoy to "be responsible and listen to the people", and to roll back the police force that was dispatched to the region ahead of the vote.

With its own language and cultural traditions, demands for independence in Catalonia date back centuries but have surged during recent years of economic hardship.

The region of Catalonia, home to 7.5 million people in the northeast, is crucial to Spain, which is the EU's fifth-biggest economy and a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

The premier noted that 4,000 additional police were deployed in Catalonia in the run-up to the referendum, adding they would stay until the crisis was over.

Dozens of protesters surrounded two Mossos vans and called the officers standing guard in front of them "traitors".

Spain cried foul and most governments backed Madrid.

But protesters have also marched in favor of independence since the October 1 vote, claiming that the Catalans have a distinct culture from the rest of Spain and that they contribute more to the economy than the other regions.

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