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10 October 2017, 12:43 | Marta Robbins
In the case of independence, Catalonia would be excluded from the european Union
Hundreds of thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters marched through the streets of Barcelona yesterday, exactly a week after voters in a banned referendum in Catalonia voted overwhelmingly in favour of breaking away from Spain.
Spain's opposition Socialist party chief Pedro Sanchez called on Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to "stop everything" as he threatens to formally declare independence within days.
Spain has plunged into a political crisis since Catalan leaders went forward with an independence referendum on October 1 despite the country's constitutional court outlawing the vote.
Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has emphatically ruled out negotiating with the Catalan government ahead of its declaration of independence scheduled for October 10.
"While the Spanish authorities, as you all know, put a great deal of effort into making that vote as hard as ever, the Catalans responded in a way I'd never seen before: by making paella".
Separatist leaders have warned that such a move would fuel support for independence.
Ever since Spain's return to democracy in the 1970s, Madrid has struggled to balance the country's patchwork of regional identities, including its decades-long fight to quell separatism in the northern Basque Country led by violent militants ETA.
Madrid on Friday meanwhile apologised for the first time for police use of violence in trying to hinder a weekend referendum it had declared illegal, soothing financial market jitters. "As such, I can say to you with complete candour that it is not going to happen", he said in an interview with El Pais newspaper, published on Sunday.
"But in that case rectifications will have to be made".
Despite some secessionists' attempts to label Sunday's march as a right-wing, authoritarian event, several people insisted that the pro-independence camp did not have a monopoly on progressive opinion.
"We will show these minoritarian secessionists that Spain is a modern country", Nobel Literature Prize victor Mario Vargas Llosa said in a speech at the end of the rally.
On the eve of Sunday's rally, Rajoy refused to rule out suspending Catalonia's regional autonomy - a move that risks further unrest.
"The worst of all, the one that has caused the most ravages in history, is nationalist passion", he added.
"The true dignity however, lies with the people of Catalonia", continued Chapman.
Puigdemont has called for European Union mediation, which Rajoy has rejected. Others called for dialogue.
The French government said on Monday that it would not recognize an independent Catalonia, and that independence would result in automatic expulsion from the European Union.
If the Catalans bow to pressure at the last minute and do not declare independence, Puigdemont's political survival would be in doubt.
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