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Catalonia Leader Says Will Declare Independence In ‘Matter of Days’


Firefighters in Barcelona raise their hands during a pro-independence demonstration on October 3.

The leader of Catalonia says the region will declare independence "in a matter of days," a move certain to ratchet up already high tensions with the national authorities in Madrid.

Secessionist leader Carles Puigdemont told the BBC on October 3 that his government would "act at the end of this week or the beginning of next," as protests in the prosperous region in favor of independence mounted.

Puigdemont warned that if the Spanish government attempted to intervene and take control of Catalonia's government, it would be "an error which changes everything."

Catalan authorities said that about 90 percent of the 2.26 million people who participated in an independence referendum on October 1 voted in favor of a split from Spain. Officials said turnout was about 42 percent of the region’s 5.34 million registered voters.

Before the vote, polls indicated that a minority of around 40 percent of the region's total 7.5 million Catalans supported independence, but many opposed to the referendum did not participate.

Spain's Constitutional Court had ruled the referendum illegal and Spanish police moved to block polling stations on the day of voting, with some 900 people reportedly injured in battles with law-enforcement officials.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called the vote a "mockery" of democracy, and the European Commission expressed support for Madrid’s position before the referendum.

In an October 3 televised address, Spanish King Felipe VI accused the secessionist leaders of contravening democratic principles and dividing Catalan society.

In a rare intervention by the monarch, Felipe said the "irresponsible behavior" of the Catalan leaders had undermined social harmony in the region. "Today, Catalan society is fractured and in conflict," he said.

Striking workers and hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Barcelona and other Catalan towns on October 3 to protest police violence, blocking traffic and public transport and disrupting businesses.

Autonomous Catalonia is Spain's richest region and has a separate language and culture. It has been a part of Spain since the 15th century but has a long history of separatist sentiment.

With reporting by the BBC, The Telegraph, and Reuters
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