News / Europe

    Catalans Form Human Chain to Press for Independence From Spain

    Catalan separatist flags are waved as a crowd forms a human chain to mark the "Diada de Catalunya" [Catalonia's National Day] in central Barcelona, September 11, 2013.
    Catalan separatist flags are waved as a crowd forms a human chain to mark the "Diada de Catalunya" [Catalonia's National Day] in central Barcelona, September 11, 2013.
    Reuters
    Hundreds of thousands of Catalans held hands in a 400-kilometer human chain across their region on Wednesday to press the Spanish government to let them vote on breaking away and forming their own country.

    Demonstrators in yellow T-shirts, and draped in blue, red and yellow separatist banners raised their joined hands through cities and along rural roads, jumping and shouting in celebration when the chain was completed.

    “We want a referendum to see whether there's majority support for independence. The problem is Spain won't listen. Our only hope... is that Europe and the rest of the world put pressure on the Spanish government,” said Ester Sarramona, a 39-year-old civil servant.

    Sarramona, her husband and their children joined the chain in the heart of Barcelona, Catalonia's capital. Like many other Catalans, they said their region was treated unfairly over taxes and cultural issues such as the Catalan language, despite having significant self-governing powers.

    Catalan separatist flags are waved as a crowd forms a human chain to mark the "Diada de Catalunya" [Catalonia's National Day] in central Barcelona, September 11, 2013.Catalan separatist flags are waved as a crowd forms a human chain to mark the "Diada de Catalunya" [Catalonia's National Day] in central Barcelona, September 11, 2013.
    x
    Catalan separatist flags are waved as a crowd forms a human chain to mark the "Diada de Catalunya" [Catalonia's National Day] in central Barcelona, September 11, 2013.
    Catalan separatist flags are waved as a crowd forms a human chain to mark the "Diada de Catalunya" [Catalonia's National Day] in central Barcelona, September 11, 2013.
    A deep recession and cuts in public spending in Catalonia, a wealthy industrial region in the northeast that accounts for a fifth of Spain's economic output, have stirred discontent with the central government in Madrid.

    Polls show backing for secession has risen steadily in Catalonia, with some registering support as high as 50 percent.

    Growing separatism in the region of 7.5 million people has become a headache for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who is mired in a corruption scandal and trying to pull Spain out of recession while pushing through unpopular spending cuts.

    Pyrenees to Vanecia

    The demonstration, on Catalan national day, aimed to draw international attention to the independence movement.

    Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Catalan President Artur Mas met in secret in August and have indicated they could continue negotiations to end a year-long standoff over the referendum and greater tax powers for the region.

    Rajoy says a referendum on Catalan independence would be unconstitutional and has pledged to block it in the courts.

    “If we don't get a referendum people will just get more frustrated,” said Bernat Cabero, a sculptor who lives in France and traveled home to Catalonia for the demonstration.

    Organizers said more than half a million joined in and accomplished their goal of forming an unbroken line from the Pyrenees in the north to the border with Valencia in the south. Television footage showed huge segments of the line of people.

    Traffic clogged highways as police cut some roads. After the chain was formed, the peaceful demonstration quickly broke up and everyone headed home.

    The only reported trouble came when around 20 far-right demonstrators, shouting slogans in favor of Spanish unity, set off a teargas-like substance at one Catalan celebration, said local media. Five people needed treatment.

    The human chain inspired by a similar event in 1989 that helped the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania win independence from the Soviet Union.

    Catalan separatists are also watching closely a planned September 2014 Scottish referendum on independence from the United Kingdom, hoping it will promote the idea of self-determination for regions within European Union countries.

    Catalans have nurtured a separate identity for centuries, but an independence movement surged recently as many became disillusioned with limitations on the autonomy they gained in the late 1970s after the Francisco Franco dictatorship, which had suppressed Catalan nationalism.

    Risky moves

    Opponents of independence argue the region has never been an entirely separate state. The Medieval Principality of Catalonia came under the Crown of Aragon, though it was allowed to run its own affairs through an institution known as the Generalitat.

    The human chain linked up on Wednesday at exactly 17:14, symbolizing the year 1714 when King Philip V abolished the Generalitat after the War of the Spanish Succession.

    Catalan President Mas has threatened to call an early election and use it as a plebiscite on secession if Rajoy uses the courts to block a referendum. This is seen as a risky move as his political alliance has lost ground while a more leftist separatist party has won support in the past year.

    Mas is in a delicate position because the Catalan budget hole is so big that the central government had to bail out the region last year.

    “We are talking with the Spanish government but I have a lot of doubts over whether it will be fruitful,” Mas told foreign journalists on Wednesday morning.

    Rajoy has limited room for maneuver as any offer to Catalonia of better fiscal treatment or more autonomy could spur protests in other autonomous regions such as the Basque Country.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora