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Posts tagged ‘Iberian Land of Catalonia’

Soccer coach Guardiola leads Catalan independence rally

June 11, 2017

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Soccer great Pep Guardiola has called on the international community to support a referendum on Catalan independence that Spain’s government considers illegal. Guardiola read a manifesto at a rally of several thousand supporters of Catalan independence who gathered at a fountain in Barcelona on Sunday. He said “democracies in Europe and around the world to stand by us as we defend our rights of freedom, political expression and the right to vote.”

Guardiola, a former coach and player for Barcelona soccer club, is now Manchester City’s manager. On Friday, Catalonia’s regional president Carles Puigdemont announced that his government would hold the independence referendum on Oct. 1.

Spain’s government has promised to stop the vote on grounds that it is unconstitutional since the matter would affect all Spaniards.

Catalonia steps up separatist challenge with Oct. 1 vote

June 09, 2017

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Catalonia’s regional government has chosen Oct. 1 as the date for a referendum on a split from Spain, stepping up the confrontation with the country’s central government, which sees the vote as illegal.

Regional president Carles Puigdemont said Catalans will be asked if they want Catalonia to be an independent republic. He made the long-awaited announcement in a televised statement, surrounded by members of his cabinet following a brief meeting.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government didn’t comment immediately but has previously said that it won’t allow the vote because it considers it unconstitutional. Puigdemont has said he remains open to dialogue with Madrid but that the vote is nonnegotiable.

Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, accounts for a fifth of Spain’s GDP and has a population of over 7 million.

Protesters in Barcelona aim to claim city back from tourists

January 28, 2017

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Protesters rallied Saturday in Barcelona over what they considered an out-of-control tourism boom that has damaged their ability to live and work in the northeastern Spanish city.

A soaring tourism business has fueled higher prices for rent and property sales, leaving many of the city’s 1.6 million residents priced out of the city center. Under a large banner saying “Barcelona is not for sale,” protesters marched and read a manifesto in which they denounced the tourist boom has overtaken the city. Local police said over 1,000 people demonstrated in the famed central walkway of Las Ramblas, while protesters estimated the total as closer to 2,000.

“This march is a way to portray the fact that we have lost our city, and are hoping to claim it back. Rent and property prices have risen back to what they were in 2008, before the economic crisis, and residents can no longer afford them,” said Camilo Ramos, 63, a representative of the Barcelona Neighbors Association.

Despite fierce opposition from hotel and business owners, the City Council agreed Friday to curb the number of rooms for tourists in the city. Many protesters felt the move fell short of expectations.

“It was a necessary measure, but it’s still not enough. We need to decrease the number of hotels and increase public space for residents,” said Anna Moreno, a 59-year-old high school professor. Asha Nen, a visiting 35-year-old French engineering assistant, watched the scene from a distance.

“We are enjoying our stay, although it’s true that the city is quite full. Some locals seem to be weary of us tourists,” she said.

Catalan leader mulls early vote on break with Spain

December 16, 2016

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Separatist leaders in Catalonia plan to seek Spanish government support for a referendum on the region’s independence, but a lack of consent from Madrid will not stop them from staging the vote, the president of the regional government said Friday.

Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia’s pro-independence leader, told The Associated Press in an interview that he may seek to push forward his original plan to hold a binding vote in September 2017. “We would need to have everything ready, but it could be earlier, of course,” Puigdemont said, when asked if his government would hasten the timetable to prevent the referendum from becoming mired in legal and political proceedings. “The welfare of Catalonia is only possible outside of Spain.”

Spain’s constitution doesn’t permit a referendum or the secession of a region. Earlier Friday, Catalonia Parliament Speaker Carme Forcadell appeared before a judge to be questioned about allowing the body’s lawmakers to debate a secession motion this year.

A thousand Catalan pro-independence supporters, including Puigdemont and hundreds of town mayors, turned out Friday to support Forcadell. Waving pro-independence flags and chanting slogans, the crowd accompanied her from the local parliament to a nearby regional court.

Other officials, including a former president of the region, Artur Mas, have also been questioned or are being called to testify for organizing votes in and outside of parliament about Catalonia’s future within Spain.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy recently put his second-in-command of his newly-formed government, Soraya Saez de Santamaria, in charge of thawing relations with the Catalans, but both sides blame each other for the lack of formal negotiations.

Friday’s display of support for Forcadell was aimed, partially, at putting pressure on Madrid. A leading figure in the independence movement, Forcadell is accused of disobeying Spain’s Constitutional Court by recently allowing the regional Parliament to approve a resolution expressing its intent to press ahead with secession.

“I made clear that no court can stop the parliament from debating independence or any other issue that affects the people of this country,” she said after answering a judge’s questions for half an hour.

Catalan authorities accuse the Spanish government of using the courts to attack separatist lawmakers, but Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said Friday “in Spain the justice system is independent and does not respond to any type of pressure.”

“Nobody can have a blank check to disobey laws and act with impunity, and much less so when they are holding public office,” the spokesman added. Polls consistently show that Catalonia’s 7.5 million residents are roughly equally divided on breaking from Spain, although a vast majority supports a vote.

Separatist sentiment began to swell five years ago at the height of Spain’s economic crisis as secessionists claimed Catalonia paid more in taxes than the region received back in investments. Other lifelong secessionists argue only a separate Catalan state could protect their language— which is spoken side by side with Spanish in the wealthy northeastern region.

Puigdemont, 53, outlined his route to secession from Spain in the palace of the regional government. He insisted that his government wants to negotiate with Rajoy, but that the vote is non-negotiable.

“We are trapped in a decadent relationship with Spain. Our aspirations are systematically contested by a state that should be working in our favor,” he said. Among the critics of the secessionists, there are new parties in the region that are trying to win over the support of disgruntled Catalans without breaking away from Spain.

“We are already in the European Union and in Spain. We are a rich region within a rich country, and our leaders are inventing a problem,” said Ines Arrimadas, the leader of the opposition Ciutadans (Citizens) party.

In an attempt to show Madrid’s willingness to open a dialogue on its own terms, the central government’s ministers started reviewing the 46 demands Puigdemont presented to Rajoy earlier this year, including long-time Catalonian demands for investments in infrastructure, education and health.

Rajoy has said that the government would ignore the first item topping Puigdemont’s list: a new referendum for Catalonia’s independence.

Associated Press writer Ciaran Giles contributed from Madrid.

Hundreds march to protest bullfighting’s return to Barcelona

October 22, 2016

MADRID (AP) — Hundreds of people have marched in Barcelona to protest the return of bullfighting to the city. Spain’s Constitutional Court overruled Catalonia’s regional ban on bullfighting Thursday, saying the prohibition violated a national law protecting the controversial spectacle.

Spain’s Pacma animal rights political party called for Saturday’s protest as part of its “Mission Abolition.” Pacma has said it will continue to fight to end bull-related spectacles at a national level.

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, the powerful northeastern region that outlawed bullfighting in 2010. The ban reflected a growing movement against bullfighting, but also was seen as a step in the Catalan government’s push to break away from Spain.

Pacma has called for more protests to be held in Madrid and other Spanish cities.

Catalonia separatist leader urges binding independence vote

September 11, 2016

MADRID (AP) — The leader of Spain’s powerful northeastern region of Catalonia has said he plans to propose a government-approved binding independence referendum to secede from Spain by next year. Catalonia’s separatist leader, Carles Puigdemont, spoke Saturday at a news conference before celebrations of the Catalan National Day holiday, which separatists have used for years to rally hundreds of thousands in support of a new European nation.

Around 1.6 million people voted in favor of secession in a non-binding vote held in 2014. Most of the region’s 5.4 million eligible voters didn’t participate. Polls show most Catalans support a referendum on independence, but are roughly divided over splitting from Spain.

Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, his conservative Popular Party and two more of Spain’s main political parties oppose a Catalonian state.

Catalan separatists rally in Barcelona to support secession

September 11, 2016

MADRID (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of separatist-minded Catalans rallied in Barcelona on Sunday to show their support for breaking away from Spain, leaving the country without its powerful and prosperous northeastern region.

Barcelona police estimated on their Twitter account that about 540,000 people attended the rally in support of a legally-binding referendum that would achieve an independent Catalonia. Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont said that he plans to propose a government-approved binding independence referendum to secede from Spain by next year. Spain, which opposes secession, argues that an independent Catalonia would be ejected from the European Union and left out from using the euro currency.

Catalonia held a non-binding vote in 2014, when around 1.6 million people voted in favor of independence. Most of the region’s 5.4 million eligible voters didn’t participate after Spain’s Constitutional Court ordered the suspension of the ballot.

In June, a Catalan judge recommended former regional president Artur Mas stand trial for staging the vote and ignoring the suspension. Mas claims the vote was carried out by volunteers. Catalan National Day has long been used to mobilize the masses in support of secession from Spain.

Polls show most Catalans support a referendum on independence, but are roughly divided over splitting from Spain. Catalonia shares cultural traits with the rest of Spain, but many Catalans feel their customs, especially their language, set them aside from the rest of Spain.

Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, his conservative Popular Party and two more of Spain’s main political parties oppose a Catalonian state. Only the far-left Podemos supports allowing Catalonia to hold an independence referendum.

The economically-powerful Catalonia has a thriving population of 7.5 million and accounts for 18 percent of Spain’s economic output.

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