Catalans march for independence

Published: September 13, 2012 – 3:00AM

BARCELONA was a sea of red and yellow Catalan flags as more than 1.5 million people brought the city to a standstill at a mass rally called to demand independence for the Spanish region.

The planned route was already filled with demonstrators before Tuesday’s march began, in what marked a watershed for the hitherto marginal independence movement.

At least one train and more than 1000 buses had been chartered to bring supporters to the march.

Long-standing resentment about what Catalans see as their unfairly high contribution to central government has been inflamed by Spain’s economic woes. Polls published on Tuesday show support for independence running at 46.4 per cent – twice as high as in 2008, when the financial crisis began.

The upsurge in support for secession has caught Catalonia’s nationalist CiU government on the hop. CiU, which has governed Catalonia for 25 of the 33 years since democracy was restored, has never aspired to independence, preferring to wring more autonomy out of minority governments in Madrid.

Catalan President Artur Mas initially said he had no intention of joining the march but later said he would attend in a personal capacity. Carme Forcadell, speaking for the group behind the march, said: ”Anyone who attends should understand that they will be considered pro-independence.”

Speaking on television on the eve of the rally, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dismissed the march, saying: ”This isn’t a moment for big gestures like this. What we need to do is create jobs.”

Documentary filmmaker Carles Brugueras said he was not a nationalist but favoured independence from a strictly economic perspective. ”For a long time, Catalonia has been generating a lot of resources for Spain but the fiscal balance has been very unfair,” he said.

Laura Nunez, a law student and new convert to independence, said independence would boost the Catalan economy.

”We’re economically the most powerful part of Spain, because of industry and tourism,” she said.


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