Catalan separatists to hold rally amid infighting

By JOSEPH WILSON, Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Catalan separatists will hold a rally in Barcelona on Sunday in a bid by march organizers to revive the fraying independence movement as it nears the fifth anniversary of its failed separation from the rest of the world. Spain.

For the past decade, the 9/11 rally held on Catalonia’s public holiday has been the focal point of the separatist movement in the northeast region. It attracted several hundred thousand people demanding the creation of a new country from this corner of the western Mediterranean.

But the unity between pro-independence political parties and civil society groups that led the October 2017 independence campaign, which received no international support and was quickly quashed, is in danger of collapsing.

The Catalan National Assembly (ANC), a civil group organizing Sunday’s march, strongly opposes talks the Catalan government is holding with the Spanish central government in Madrid. The influential organization says it has lost confidence in the political parties and is ready to move forward without them towards a new attempt to break with Spain.

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This led Catalonia regional president Pere Aragonès to announce he would be the first Catalan president not to attend the annual march, which separatists have used as a show of force.

ANC president Dolors Feliu told The Associated Press that she hopes Sunday’s rally will serve as a wake-up call for Aragonès to cease negotiations with the central government because she is convinced that, if it is left to Spain, Catalonia will never be free. .

“We understand that it must be the people on the streets and the institutions committed to independence who achieve independence and that the Spanish state will oppose us,” Feliu said. “If we wait for approval from the Spanish state, we won’t go anywhere.”

Aragonès took part in other events over the holidays, but other members of his Republican Left of Catalonia party endured ‘traitorous’ taunts from onlookers when they made the traditional offering of flowers in front of a monument to a Catalan nationalist in Barcelona in the morning.

Aragonès defends the ongoing talks with the government of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez as vital. He insists he won’t back down on his promise to hold another independence referendum, but in the short term the talks are crucial to finding solutions for the dozens of Catalans who are in legal trouble for their role in the 2017 dissenting bid that went on trial. illegal by the Spanish courts.

Coinciding with the talks, the Spanish government last year pardoned nine Catalan separatist leaders who had been sentenced to long prison terms for leading the 2017 bid.

The infighting that threatens Catalonia’s separatist cause comes as Scotland seeks to hold a second independence referendum after winning a ‘No’ vote in 2014.

Catalan separatist parties won 52% of the vote in an election last year and maintained their grip on the regional parliament, but after years of extreme tensions and protests that turned violent in 2019, many people, in particular around half of Catalans who want to remain part of Spain, are relieved that there is a dialogue with the central authorities.

There are also divisions between the separatist political parties that form the government of Catalonia. The young member of the Aragonès government shares the ANC’s skepticism about the talks with Madrid. Its leaders have publicly spoken of leaving the government unless there is a stronger plan of action to force independence.

But no one, not the ANC or the more radical separatist parties, seems to be able to articulate exactly how they can achieve independence other than through an authorized referendum. The 2017 bid was based on an unauthorized referendum on independence, and that only caused legal problems for the separatists.

Historian Enric Ucelay-Da Cal, author of several books on Catalonia and its separatist movement, says this marks the low point of the current push.

“I think the whole movement is on a limb,” Ucelay-Da Cal told the AP. “I don’t see the associative movement being able to lead better than the parties have done, because none of them is confronted with the reality of the facts. They don’t measure who they are. They say “we are everyone”.

He said the breakup of the movement is “just a hangover: you partied and it didn’t work out.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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