Catalan Independence Would Not Be Recognised


In a defiant challenge to plans by Catalonia's regional government to unilaterally declare independence, hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets of Barcelona in a surprising outpouring of Spanish unity.

Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría said in an interview on Spanish radio that the government would invoke powers to take control of the regional government if Catalonia went ahead and declared independence.

Barcelona police said 3,50,000 people participated, while march organisers Societat Civil Catalana claimed that 9,30,000 people turned out.

The region's president Carles Puigdemont is expected to address parliament tomorrow following a landmark referendum to separate.

Separatist leaders in the wealthy region have threatened to declare independence from Spain - the fourth biggest economy in the eurozone - setting off a severe political crisis that has unsettled businesses and investors.

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The anti-independence demonstration, which included Catalans and people from other parts of Spain, underlined how the dispute has riven the region itself, coming less than a month after a million people rallied in the same city to support independence. In that case, they would also lose the right to do business across the EU.

The Catalan government said more than 90 per cent of voters were in favour of independence from Spain.The turnout was only 43 per cent.

Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has emphatically ruled out negotiating with the Catalan government ahead of its declaration of independence scheduled for October 10. The march was the largest pro-union showing since the rise of separatist sentiment in the prosperous northeastern region that has pushed Spain to the brink of a national crisis.

In an interview with El Pais newspaper, Rajoy also rejected any mediation to resolve the crisis, BBC reported on Sunday.

Divisions between Catalan leaders and the central government took a particularly brutal form on the day of the vote, when thousands of Spanish police went to Catalonia to try to shut the referendum down and clashed with protesters and voters. An AP reporter spoke with another man who had come from the northern Basque Country region.

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The rally was addressed by Nobel prize-winning novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who has dual Spanish and Peruvian nationality.

"We feel both Catalan and Spanish", Araceli Ponze, 72, said during Sunday's rally.

Rajoy's government has 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.

Meantime, a senior member of the Catalan administration called for dialogue with Spain, warning that all of Europe faces economic damage unless a resolution is found to his region's standoff with the central government in Madrid.

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