dissabte, 12 de setembre de 2015

The Telegraph: 'More than one million march for independence ahead of controversial Catalonia vote' #news #eu #usa #politics

Catalans protest their right to have a referendum for Catalonia Independence from Spain

The colourful show of force by the pro-independence campaign on the Diada, Catalonia's national day, was a defiant message to Madrid ahead of a Sept 27 regional election Photo: LNP

By James Badcock, Barcelona
7:47PM BST 11 Sep 2015

More than one million people thronged in central Barcelona on Friday to demand independence for Catalonia ahead of controversial elections cast by the region's leaders as a de facto referendum on secession from Spain.

The colourful show of force by the pro-independence campaign on the Diada, Catalonia's national day, was a defiant message to Madrid ahead of a Sept 27 regional election which the Catalan premier, Artur Mas, hasstyled as an independence plebiscite despite warnings from the central government. Mr Mas has said that a win for the coalition led by his conservative Convergència (CiU) party will be considered a mandate for secession - and spark a unilateral declaration of independence.

"If we get a majority in parliament and in total votes, there will be no way back," said 30-year-old Sergi, an industrial designer from Girona present at the rally. "We pay the same taxes as elsewhere in Spain and have more expensive universities and worse infrastructure. I have to pay €14 (£10) today in tolls to drive from Girona and back when you can cross the whole of Andalucia for free".

Catalans protest their right to have a referendum for Catalonia Independence from Spain  Photo: LNP

Athletes carried a large arrowhead through the crowd along three miles (five kilometres) of Barcelona's Meridiana Avenue to symbolise the idea that Catalonia's independent destiny lay ahead.

In a poll published on Thursday, Mr Mas's Junts pel Sí coalition and CUP, a Left-wing pro-independence party, were predicted to win a majority of between one and three seats in the parliament with a combined 44 per cent of the vote.

Why Catalonia's bid for independence is Europe's next headache

Support for independence has swelled over recent years in Catalonia, a regional economic powerhouse whose Catalan identity and language was severely repressed under the dictator General Francisco Franco. Police said 1.4 million people attended Friday's rally. But for those who stayed away, the highly choreographed demonstration constituted a hijacking of Catalonia's national celebration for political purposes for the fourth year in a row.

Pro-independence Catalans gather on 5.2 km of Avinguda Meridiana/ Avenida Meridiana in Barcelona  Photo: LNP

"I have never been interested in waving any national flag, neither a Spanish nor a Catalan one. And now even less because I think that CiU has utilised the fallout from the economic crisis to blame the rest of Spain for the fact that Catalonia has also suffered," said a public employee from Barcelona who preferred not to be named.

Speaking for Spain's Popular Party (PP) government, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría accused pro-independence forces of turning "what used to be a celebration for all Catalans into an electoral event, mainly for Mr Mas".

Esther Puig, who runs a small cosmetics business in Martorell, outside Barcelona, said she was not an independence supporter five years ago. "But now I don't see any other choice".

Over one million pro-independence Catalans gather on 5.2 km of Avinguda Meridiana/ Avenida Meridiana in Barcelona to demonstrate the 'Via LLiure' the Catalan Gateway  Photo: LNP

She cited the negative reaction of Spain's government to even negotiate a fiscal pact with Catalan leader Artur Mas as a key moment in her conversion. "We Catalans do feel solidarity with other regions of Spain which don't have the same economic capacity, but then we see how we are insulted in the Spanish media just for asking for a change. Now when we leave Catalonia, we feel looked down upon."

Others mentioned the 2010 Constitutional Court decision to weaken the region's autonomy statute, striking off the word "nation" from the preamble. "We have been scorned and humiliated," said 59-year-old nurse Dolores. "But we are very patient".

Luis Mateo, born in Aragon 74 years ago but who moved to Barcelona in 1963, said he had become convinced of the separatist cause and warned that "the moment will come when people will explode" if Madrid continues to block the drive for independence.

Mr Mas, who did not attend the demonstration, said at a press conference that if pro-independence forces won a majority in Catalonia's new parliament, "the process to set up a Catalan state will go ahead".