Catalonia: Spaniards wake up to a week of uncertainty
Catalonia's separatist leaders have threatened to declare independence after pressing ahead with a banned referendum on secession which they say they won.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoysaid the country may consider suspending Catalonia's autonomy after rejecting the legality of the region's independence referendum last week.
The wealthy northeastern region of 7.5 million people, which has its own language and culture, held an independence referendum on October 1 in defiance of a Spanish court ban. According to the office of the representative of the conservative government in Madrid, they were 50.000.
An estimated 350,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona today (Sunday) to rally against Catalan independence from Spain, waving both Spanish and Catalan flags while shouting, "Don't be fooled, Catalonia is Spain" and calling for the Catalan President's imprisonment. The final results from the poll show 90% of the 2.3m people who voted backed independence.
Separatists say they won the October 1 referendum, but Spain says the vote was illegal, invalid and unconstitutional. Millions of people have voted, who want to decide.
The crisis is a political test for Rajoy, who has been uncompromising.
Almost 900 people were injured as the police, trying to enforce a Spanish court ban on the vote, attempted to disperse voters.
It has also shaken market confidence in the Spanish economy, prompting calls from the European Commission for Catalan and Spanish leaders to find a political solution. "It can't be in the hands of extremists, the radicals and the (far-left secessionist party) CUP", he said.
Demonstrators dressed in white held rallies in Barcelona, Madrid and more than 40 other cities, carrying banners and flags that read "Hablamos?" or "Can we talk?"
Similar rallies were held in Bilbao, Zaragoza and Valladolid under the slogan "Spain is better than its leaders".
Jose Manuel Garcia, a 61-year-old economist at the protest, said: 'This is producing a social rupture in Catalonia and this has to be resolved through dialogue, never via unilateralism.
"I'm very anxious. This will end badly and everyone will lose (without dialogue)". In a recent decision, the Constitutional Court suspended a session of the Catalan parliament scheduled for Monday in which the declaration of unilateral independence was expected.
The march was organized by the Societat Civil Catalana, which is supported by political parties in Madrid and which called on people from all over the country to attend the march.
"I've come because I feel very Spanish and makes me very sad what's happened", said Rosa Borras, 47, an unemployed secretary who had joined a noisy gathering in central Madrid. "My family lives in Catalonia".
Judges and prosecutors were ordered to take control of polling booths, identify those in charge, name those participating in the vote, seize and confiscate relevant electoral documents /material like ballot papers, close related websites, detain key organisers, dissolve electoral boards and prevent use of public buildings as polling stations.
In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais published on Sunday, Mr Rajoy said, "Spain is not going to be divided and the nation's unity will be maintained".
Senior Catalan officials were said to be studying a possible unilateral declaration of independence, an act that had been roundly discouraged by the Spanish government and the wider global community.
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