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Posts tagged ‘Iberian Land of Catalonia’

Catalan leader urged to definitively declare independence

October 13, 2017

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Pressure is mounting from within the Catalan separatist movement on Friday for the regional president to declare independence from Spain once and for all, a move that could prompt the central government to take over the region’s powers of self-governance.

Two key allies in the secessionist bid are joining voices from within the ruling pro-independence coalition urging regional leader Carles Puigdemont to ignore Spain’s warnings and lift the suspension on his ambiguous secession proclamation earlier this week.

In a highly anticipated parliamentary speech, Puigdemont said that Catalonia was proceeding with a declaration of independence after an Oct. 1 referendum, but proposed freezing its implementation for a few weeks to allow for the possibility of negotiations with Spain.

Spain considers the referendum to be illegal and unconstitutional, and says its results are invalid. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has rejected any possibility of dialogue unless Puigdemont backtracks and returns “to legality.” He has also said that Spain doesn’t need international mediators in the political deadlock.

Rajoy’s government gave Puigdemont a Monday deadline to clarify whether he really declared independence. If Puigdemont says he did, then he will have three more days to cancel any secession plans. If he refuses to, or doesn’t answer, Rajoy has threatened to trigger for the first time a constitutional article that could give central authorities power to intervene directly in Catalonia.

The far-left separatist Catalan party CUP said in a letter dated Friday that Puigdemont should ignore the Spanish government’s warning, lift the suspension and definitively proclaim independence. The Assemblea Nacional Catalana, or ANC, a civil society group that organized massive protests in support of secession, also issued a brief statement with a similar message.

“It doesn’t make sense to keep the suspension of the independence declaration” given Madrid’s rejection of any dialogue, ANC said in the statement. Some politicians of the two parties in the ruling coalition have also expressed similar views on social media, with only a few of them calling for calm. The Catalan government hasn’t given any signal of what it intends to do.

Years of growing separatist sentiment erupted on Oct. 1 when Catalan leaders held the banned referendum despite court rulings and a fierce opposition from Spain. About 2.3 million Catalans — or 43 percent of the region’s electorate — voted amid police violence to halt the referendum. Catalonia said 90 percent favored secession and it declared the results valid. Opponents boycotted the vote.


Morocco rejects Catalonia’s secession bid


CASABLANCA – Rabat rejected Catalonia’s secession bid and expressed its commitment to Spain’s sovereignty, national unity and territorial integrity, according to statement issued Wednesday by Morocco’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Morocco called Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont’s decision to proceed with the secession “a source of instability and division not only in Spain but throughout its European neighborhood.”

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy took the first step on Wednesday towards suspending Catalonia’s political autonomy and ruling the region directly to thwart a push for independence.

He demanded that the regional government clarify whether it now considered itself independent following a speech by Puigdemont on Tuesday night during which he said that he would proceed with the secession but would suspend it for a few weeks to facilitate negotiations.

This requirement is a necessary step before triggering Article 155 of the constitution, which would allow Madrid to suspend the region’s political autonomy.

“Morocco is confident in the ability of the Spanish government to wisely manage this situation with a view to preserving the constitutional order and to act in the supreme interest of the Spanish Nation and the European Continent,” said the statement.

“Consequently, Morocco does not recognize this unilateral process which runs against the international legality,” it added.

Source: Middle East Online.


Spain warns it will act if Catalonia declares independence

October 09, 2017

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy warned anew Monday that Spain will not be divided by a declaration of independence from Catalonia and said the government is ready to respond to any such attempt.

Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont plans to address the Catalan parliament on Tuesday evening to debate the current political situation. Separatist politicians say there will be a declaration of independence for the northeastern region of 7.5 million during that session, although some ruling coalition lawmakers say the move could be simply “symbolic.”

Still, Rajoy was being as explicit as possible in warning that the national government in Madrid would not stand for such a declaration. “Spain will not be divided and the national unity will be preserved. We will do everything that legislation allows us to ensure this,” Rajoy told the German newspaper Die Welt. “We will prevent this independence from taking place.”

Secession-minded authorities in Catalonia have vowed to break away from Spain after claiming victory in a disputed independence referendum earlier this month. The Oct. 1 vote has been followed by mass protests of Catalans angered by police violence as authorities tried to stop the vote and, more recently, by others in Catalonia and Madrid urging the unity of Spain.

Yet politicians supporting Puigdemont’s minority government and civil society groups backing independence say they will not accept anything less than a full declaration of independence. “Credibility and dignity suggest making the declaration of independence tomorrow,” Jordi Sanchez, the head of the civil group National Catalonia Assembly, said Monday.

A lawmaker with the Catalan CUP party told the Associated Press that the the far-left separatists won’t accept anything short of a declaration of secession. “It’s very clear to me that those who I represent won’t accept any other scenario,” Benet Salellas said during an interview at the regional parliament.

Puigdemont has not clarified what his intentions are. Rajoy’s deputy, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, also warned that Spain would act decisively if there was any independence declaration. “If they declare independence, there will be decisions to restore the law and democracy,” she said on Monday during a radio interview.

She called for members of the Catalan government “who still respect democracy and freedom to refrain from jumping into the void.” Catalonia’s top judicial official, meanwhile, ordered additional Spanish police protection for the headquarters of the regional judiciary.

The regional Mossos d’Esquadra police force, whose hierarchy reports to the Catalan government, had been in charge until now of guarding the palace in central Barcelona that hosts the judiciary. But the High Judiciary in Catalonia says its president, Jesus Barrientos, has asked the chief of the National Police force in the region to join in the protection of the building. The statement says a declaration of independence, even if illegal under Spanish laws, could trigger the suspension of the judiciary and the ouster of its president.

On Sunday, a massive protest in Barcelona showed the strength of Spanish unionists in Catalonia, as thousands marched with the Spanish national flag that had been absent until now in the regional debate.

They chanted “Don’t be fooled, Catalonia is Spain” and called for Puigdemont to go to prison for holding the banned referendum. Catalan authorities say the “Yes” side won the referendum with 90 percent of the vote, although 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.

Rajoy has said the central government could take control of the governance of the Catalan region. “The ideal situation would be that I don’t have to find drastic solutions, but for that to happen there will have to be some rectifications (by Catalan leaders),” Rajoy said this weekend.

Rajoy’s government had repeatedly refused to grant Catalonia permission to hold a referendum on grounds that it is unconstitutional, since it would only poll a portion of Spain’s 46 million residents.

Catalonia’s separatist camp has grown in recent years, strengthened by Spain’s recent economic crisis and by Madrid’s rejection of attempts to increase self-rule in the region.

Member of Catalan govt wants ‘cease-fire’ with Spain

October 07, 2017

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — A member of Catalonia’s separatist-led government has called for a “cease-fire” with Spain to decrease tensions after a disputed referendum on independence by the prosperous region.

Santi Vila, Catalonia’s regional chief for business, told Cadena SER Radio late Friday that he’s pushing for “a new opportunity for dialogue” under “a cease-fire” with Spanish authorities. Vila says he is against Catalonia unilaterally declaring independence at this moment and wants to see a committee of experts from both sides be created to work toward a solution to the political crisis.

Separatists say they won the Oct. 1 referendum, but Spain says the vote was illegal, invalid and unconstitutional. Less than half of the electorate cast ballots in the referendum which has marred by a brutal police crackdown.

Catalan leader wants parliament speech amid independence bid

October 06, 2017

MADRID (AP) — Catalan president Carles Puigdemont on Friday asked to address the regional parliament next week amid growing challenges for his government to deliver on its pledge to declare independence for the prosperous northeastern region in Spain.

A disputed independence referendum in Catalonia last Sunday has led to Spain’s biggest political crisis in decades, with the government condemning the vote as illegal, unconstitutional and invalid. Puigdemont’s separatist ruling coalition for the region suffered a setback Thursday when Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended a Monday session of regional lawmakers assessing the vote’s results. Some lawmakers had said that Puigdemont would declare Catalonia independent then.

Puigdemont says the vote is valid despite a Constitutional Court ban on holding it and the fact that only 40 percent of the region’s 5.5 million eligible voters turned out amid strong police pressure to shut down the vote. Catalan officials say 90 percent of those who did vote favored independence.

Spain’s conservative government, which is under political and social pressure after police violently tried to halt the banned vote, has rejected any dialogue with Catalan officials unless they drop plans for secession.

Puigdemont has asked now to address the regional parliament on Tuesday to “report on the current political situation.” The speakers’ board of Catalonia’s regional parliament was to meet Friday afternoon, likely to discuss the request.

Spain’s main stock index, meanwhile, was slightly down at the end of morning trading Friday, with Catalan banks leading losses amid uncertainty of what’s next in the regional independence bid. In Madrid, Spain’s National Court unconditionally released two senior officers of Catalonia’s regional police force and the leaders of two pro-independence civic groups who are being investigated for sedition in connection with the referendum.

The four are to be questioned again in coming days, once the court studies a report by the Civil Guard police about incidents surrounding the referendum. The case is linked to demonstrations on Sept. 20-21 in Barcelona, when Spanish police arrested several Catalan government officials and raided offices in a crackdown on preparations for the referendum..

The four being investigated are Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero, Catalan police Lt. Teresa Laplana, Jordi Sanchez, the head of the Catalan National Assembly, and Jordi Cuixart, president of separatist group Omnium Cultural.

After being questioned for about an hour, Trapero left the courthouse to applause by Basque and Catalan party representatives and insults from bystanders. Sanchez also answered questions related to his defense.

“I ask strongly that the Spanish government, the national parliament and the head of state (the king) understand that time and the hours are very important to find a debated solution and give way to a political solution,” Sanchez said.

Laplana, who had remained in Barcelona, declined to testify for medical reasons while Cuixart refused to testify, saying he didn’t recognize the court’s capacity to question him for a crime he didn’t commit.

Spanish authorities say the demonstrations hindered the Spanish police operation, and that Catalan police didn’t do enough to push back protesters blocking Spanish police officers from leaving a building. Two police cars were vandalized and officers were caught inside the building for hours.

Ahead of Friday’s hearing, Catalan pro-independence supporters, including politicians, stood outside as Trapero, Sanchez and Cuixart walked into the National Court. Carles Campuzano, the spokesman for the Democratic Party of Catalonia, described the hearing as an outrage, saying that the demonstrations last month can in no way be considered illegal.

“It’s just another expression of the absolutely mistaken, authoritarian, repressive response by the (Spanish) state to the pacific, democratic and civic demand of Catalan society,” he told reporters. On Thursday, Spain’s Constitutional Court ordered Catalonia’s parliament to suspend a planned session next week during which separatist lawmakers plan to declare independence.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has urged Puigdemont to cancel plans for declaring independence in order to avoid “greater evils.”

Parra reported from Barcelona. Frank Griffiths contributed from London.

Madrid tightens grip over Catalan spending to quash vote

September 15, 2017

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s central authorities have increased their control over Catalonia’s regional spending to make sure that no funds are diverted to paying for a suspended independence referendum, the country’s finance minister said Friday.

Following the weekly meeting of the Spanish cabinet, Cristobal Montoro said the government is also giving Catalan officials 48 hours to comply with a new system that scrutinizes public payments in order “to guarantee that not one euro will go toward financing illegal acts.”

Montoro told reporters the extraordinary controls were justified in order to pay civil servants and suppliers procuring services in education and health, among other essentials, while at the same time ensuring financial stability and defending the country’s legal order.

Last week, Spain’s constitutional court decided to suspend an independence referendum that Catalan leaders had penciled in for Oct. 1 while judges decide if it is unconstitutional, as the central government in Madrid has argued.

Separatist politicians in Catalonia — Spain’s richest region that has Barcelona as its major city — are still pressing ahead with the referendum despite the ban and despite the launch of a criminal investigation into three-quarters of Catalonia’s mayors who have supported the vote.

On Thursday, Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras, who is in charge of economic affairs in the northeastern region, said he would stop providing central authorities with weekly spending reports. Making these reports weekly instead of monthly, as Spain requires of all 17 regional governments, had been a measure imposed in July by Spain’s finance authorities as preparations for the referendum escalated.

Junqueras dismissed the scrutiny as politically motivated and said the Catalan government would only send the monthly reports. The Madrid-based government has also rejected calls for dialogue from Catalonia’s leading officials on framing a referendum because that can only be achieved by changing the country’s constitution through a majority in the national parliament. Under Spanish law, a secession referendum can only be promoted by the central government. All voters in Spain also have the right to vote on issues related to sovereignty.

In a letter requesting discussions, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, Junqueras, regional parliament president Carme Forcadell and Barcelona mayor Ada Colau accused Spain of launching “an offensive of repression without precedent.”

“The prime minister can’t make something illegal into something legal,” said Inigo Mendez de Vigo, the spokesman for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s cabinet as well as being Spain’s culture minister. The prosperous Catalonia region generates a fifth of the country’s 1.1-trillion euro economy. It enjoys ample self-government, running its own police, and has considerable powers over health and education. Taxes, foreign affairs, defense and infrastructures are in the hands of Spain’s central authorities.

Catalan independence push puts Spanish border town on edge

October 05, 2017

SAN RAFAEL DEL RIO, Spain (AP) — The river that runs through San Rafael del Rio, a quiet rural town with a population of just over 500, provides a natural boundary between the Spanish regions of Catalonia and Valencia. Now residents are worried that the escalating conflict between Spanish and Catalan authorities will split the town in two.

“People are nervous and scared because they feel this is a free-fall,” said Guadalupe Espinosa, a 47-year-old psychologist who lives on the Catalan side of the river. “I don’t like armies or borders, but maybe we will have one here. Who knows?”

Catalan leaders have said they will declare independence for the northeastern region after receiving overwhelming support for secession in a weekend referendum that Spain declared illegal and tried to stop by force. That could have particular implications for San Rafael, where the border cutting through the town until now has been a mere curiosity.

Most of San Rafael, including the town hall, is in the Valencia region, which has no plans to leave Spain. But it shares with Catalonia irrigation, roads, electricity supply and even the phone dialing prefix. Mayor Domingo Giner downplayed the conflict’s impact on the town, saying neighbors on either side of the Senia river co-exist peacefully.

“The town has other problems beyond defining its territorial entity,” said Giner, a 55-year-old pig farmer who represents the conservative Popular Party of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. “We need to respect each other. Our residents understand Catalonia is part of them.”

There was no outward sign of conflict this week in San Rafael, where a fountain sputtered peacefully on the main plaza as the occasional tractor rumbled by. A 100-meter (100-yard) bridge connects the main part of town with the Castell neighborhood on the Catalonian side. Some residents said they got along just fine, even though some identified as Catalans and others as Spaniards.

“Valencia and Catalonia are different, but even though the border exists, it’s the same town,” 20-year-old lifeguard Natzari Reverte said. But others, especially those old enough to remember Spanish dictator Gen. Francisco Franco’s crackdown on separatism, said tensions have risen in recent years amid the growing animosity between Catalonia’s pro-independence leaders and the Spanish government in Madrid.

“I have a brother who is pro-independence but we can’t talk about it, because it gets tense, and I don’t want to fight,” said Hector Reverter, a 74-year-old retiree having pre-lunch beers with friends at a gas station restaurant on the outskirts of the town.

Only those living on the Catalan side were able to vote in the referendum, casting their ballots in the nearby Catalan town of Ulldecona. According to preliminary results, about 90 percent of ballots cast were for independence, but many opponents are believed to have ignored the referendum. Turnout was around 40 percent.

Reverter lives on the Catalan side but opposes independence and said he would move to the Spanish side if the river were turned into the external boundary of an independent Catalonia. “I don’t want to see any border,” Reverter said. “I want to die and not see it.”

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