Catalan separatists rally as movement frays 5 years on

Catalan separatists rally as movement frays 5 years on

BARCELONA, Spain — About 150,000 Catalan separatists rallied in Barcelona on Sunday in an attempt to reignite the independence movement that is fraying as it nears the five-year anniversary of its failed breakaway bid from Spain.

For the past decade, the Sept. 11 rally on Catalonia’s principal holiday has been the center of the northeast region’s separatist movement. It has attracted hundreds of thousands of people who want to establish a country in this province in the western Mediterranean.

But the unity between pro-independence parties and civil society groups that led October 2017 independence push is at risk of being dissolved due to divergent views on how to move forward.

The Catalan National Assembly, a civil group, opposes the talks the Catalan government has with Spain’s central government at Madrid. The influential group claims it has lost faith and is ready to move forward without political parties towards a new attempt to break with Spain. That led Pere Aragones (Catalonia’s regional president) to announce that he would be the first Catalan president not to attend the annual march. The president of ANC,

Dolors Feliu told The Associated Press she hopes Sunday’s rally will be a wake-up call to Aragones and force him to end negotiations with the central government. Feliu stated that it was the people on the streets and institutions committed to independence who will achieve independence. Feliu also said that the Spanish state would oppose them. “If we wait for the approval of the Spanish state, we won’t get anywhere.”

Barcelona’s police calculated that 150,000 people attended the rally. The organizers claimed that several hundred thousand more people attended the rally. Amid a sea of pro-independence flags, some marchers carried signs demanding Catalan authorities either make a “Declaration of Independence or Resign.”

Feliu told the huge crowd in downtown Barcelona that “this rally has put the fear,” presumably, in the separatist parties.

Aragones did participate in other events on the holiday, but other members of his Republican Left of Catalonia party endured jeers of “Traitors!” from spectators when they made the traditional offering of flowers at a monument to a Catalan nationalist in Barcelona.

“Let us not forget who our real enemy is: The Spanish state,” Marta Vilalta spokeswoman for Aragones party. “Enough of criticism and anything that divides us.”

Aragones defends the talks with the government of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez as vital. While he insists that he will not renounce his promise to hold another referendum on independence but said that the talks are essential to finding solutions to the many Catalans who are in legal trouble due to their role in the 2017 splitaway bid, which was declared illegal by Spanish courts.

Coinciding with the talks, Spain’s government issued pardons last year for 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 is occurring while Scotland seeks to hold a second independence referendum.

Catalan separatist party won 52% last year’s vote and retained their hold on the regional legislature. However, after years of extreme tensions, protests that turned violent and years of tensions, many people, particularly the approximately half of Catalans who wish to remain part of Spain, are relieved to see that there is a dialogue between central authorities.

There is also division between the separatist political party that forms Catalonia’s government. The ANC’s skeptical view of the talks with Madrid is shared by the junior member of Aragones government. Its leadership has spoken out about wanting to leave the government unless there is a stronger plan for action to force independence.

But no one, including the ANC and the more radical separatist parties seem to be able express how they can achieve independence if it is not through an authorized referendum. The 2017 bid was made on the basis of an unauthorized referendum on independence. This only led to 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 entire movement is out on a limb,” Ucelay Da Cal told the AP. “I don’t see the association movement being capable of leading any better than the parties, because none are facing the truth. They don’t recognize who they are. They are saying ‘we are everybody.'”

He said the movement’s splintering is “just a hangover: you had the party and it didn’t work out.”

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