More protests against Catalonia's independence vote planned across Spain

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 07.10.2017 13:42
Updated 07.10.2017 13:46
Protestors gather holding Spanish flags during a demonstration against independence of Catalonia called by DENAES foundation for the Spanish Nation Defence on October 07, 2017 in Madrid. (AFP Photo)
Protestors gather holding Spanish flags during a demonstration against independence of Catalonia called by DENAES foundation for the Spanish Nation Defence on October 07, 2017 in Madrid. (AFP Photo)

Demonstrations opposing the independence of Catalonia are set to take place at midday Saturday in major cities across Spain, as the Catalan regional government continues its push to secede from Spain and become a republic.

Saturday's protests will take place in Madrid, Barcelona and several other major cities, while another mass anti-independence protest is planned for Sunday in Barcelona.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Artur Mas, a former president of Catalonia and current leader of the pro-independence Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT), pointed to the practical and logistical steps that must still be taken before gaining "real independence."

"[T]o be independent there are some things we still don't have," Mas told the newspaper, "this is not just about proclaiming independence but about actually becoming an independent country."

Spain's deepest political crisis in decades has raised fears of further unrest in the northeastern region, a tourist-friendly area of 7.5 million people that accounts for a fifth of Spain's economy.

Friday saw the first signs the sides may be willing to step back from the brink in a political conflict that risks destabilizing Europe.

After days of ill-tempered rhetoric, the central government said it regretted the injuries and suggested Catalonia should hold a regional election to settle the crisis.

Catalan government minister Santi Vila, a close of ally of regional president Carles Puigdemont, meanwhile told broadcaster Rac1 that his side could consider a "ceasefire" in the dispute, to avoid a further crackdown by Madrid.

Businesses and the government kept up economic pressure on Catalonia however, with several big companies announcing moves to shift their legal domiciles to other parts of Spain.

Economic pressure

Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday ordered the suspension of a session scheduled for Monday in the Catalan parliament at which some leaders have called for an independence declaration.

If Catalonia declares independence, Spain could respond by suspending the region's existing autonomous status and imposing direct rule from Madrid.

On another front, the government in Madrid pushed ahead with a measure to pressure Catalonia economically.

It passed a decree to make it quicker for businesses to shift their legal domiciles away from one region to another.

Energy company Gas Natural and Catalonia's two biggest banks, Sabadell and CaixaBank, said they were shifting their legal headquarters out of Catalonia.

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

The Catalan government later on Friday published final results from the referendum vote indicating that 90 percent of voters backed the region breaking away from Spain.

Voter turnout was 43 percent.

Recent polls have indicated that Catalans are split on independence, though leaders warned the violence during the referendum turned many against the state authorities.

Switzerland said Friday it was "in contact" with both sides in the crisis but stressed that formal mediation could not begin until both camps were ready.

Madrid has said there will be no talks or mediation until the Catalans abandon the independence bid.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter