EghtesadOnline: Catalan’s separatist leaders pushing for the region’s independence will come under more pressure on Sunday when thousands of people plan to take to the streets of Barcelona to demand the secessionists shelve their plans.
Already battered by a corporate stampede to exit the region, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont is seeking to hold the momentum as the clock ticks down to a meeting on Tuesday that could trigger the separation process. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, meantime, must decide whether to preemptively reassert control, as some of his main allies are urging him to do.
According to Bloomberg, the crisis is taking its toll and Puigdemont risks being cast adrift by the rest of Europe if he pushes ahead with plans based on a referendum a week ago that breached Spain’s constitution. Already, about a dozen companies, including the biggest symbol of the rebel region’s wealth, CaixaBank SA, have said they will or plan to relocate their legal bases.
“There is a growing element of social frustration,” said Alejandro Quiroga, professor of Spanish history at the University of Newcastle. “The question is whether there is actually any room for talks because the core of the matter remains unchanged: the concept of sovereignty.”
Rajoy, in an interview with El Pais newspaper that will be published in full on Sunday, said Spain will exist for a long time and that he won’t allow a declaration of independence to lead to anything.
Sunday’s protest is being organized by a civil society group that wants “Silent Catalonia” to make itself heard -- a reference to what it says is a silent majority that wants to defuse the situation. The ruling People’s Party, the opposition socialists and other parties have urged their supporters to take part.
The demonstration is scheduled to start at noon in Barcelona’s Urquinaona square. “Enough! Back to Common Sense!” is one of the rallying cries being used by the civic group to get people out. Unions have already said they’ll take part.
“Catalans who also feel Spanish and have spent our lives caught up in a spiral of silence want to break it and say stop,” Alex Ramos, one of the organizers, told El Independiente newspaper.
The regional government says about 90 percent of the 2.3 million people who cast a vote in the referendum did so in favor of independence. Rajoy’s central government denies that anything resembling a referendum with democratic guarantees took place, because it lacked certified voter lists and wasn’t overseen by an official election board.
Puigdemont, who risks more economic damage if he doesn’t hit the brakes, is trying to hold together a movement that includes a broad swathe of Catalan society, from left-wing radicals like the CUP party to business leaders.
A flight of businesses from the secessionist region accelerated Friday as CaixaBank, its largest lender, announced it’s preparing to move its legal base. About ten other companies have said the same.
“This is enough, you’re ruining our land!” Ciudadanos party leader Albert Rivera tweeted on Saturday after CUP expressed its indifference to Aguas de Barcelona’s decision to move its legal base from Barcelona.
The struggle over Catalonia represents a breakdown of the political pact that has held together modern Spain. Both sides use history to stir up rancor: Spanish nationalists argue that Catalonia has always been part of Spain, while Catalans trace their independent identity back to the 13th century.
With options to quell an increasingly bitter dispute fast running out, events are coming to a head. Puigdemont had sought to evaluate the result of the independence vote at a session of the regional parliament on Monday until it was suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court. He’s now seeking to address lawmakers on Tuesday.
Demonstrators dressed in white gathered outside city halls in Barcelona, Madrid and across Spain on Saturday to demand the two sides stop sparring and hold talks.
“There has to be a middle ground and a negotiated exit,” Sara Daoud, a 25-year-old nurse, said at the Barcelona rally. “If politicians won’t do it on their own, we’ll have to make them do it.”