14 de setembre de 2012

Spain's crisis fuels Catalan independence fervor - Chicago Tribune


 BARCELONA, Spain (Reuters) - Catalan National Day is bigger and bolder this year, reflecting the severity of the worst economic crisis of the post-Franco era that has fuelled separatism and highlighted fractures between Spain's wealthy northeast and the central government in Madrid.

With recession biting and unemployment gripping their region, Catalans complain bitterly that they are paying more in taxes than they receive back from Madrid and are demanding more control over their financial affairs.

"Catalonia produces sufficient resources to live better than we live," said Catalan President Artur Mas, who has promoted a powerful autonomy message for this year's celebration.

National Day, or Diada, in fact, marks the defeat of Catalan forces on September 11, 1714, at the hands of Philip V of Spain after a 13-month siege of Barcelona.

Commemorated with a fiesta in the Catalan capital with song, dance and a floral offering to Rafael Casanova, a hero of the siege, this year's marches also plan to deliver a powerful message in a white-hot row stoked by the issue of taxation.

"There is no more urgent battle or challenge than fiscal sovereignty, and now more than ever," Mas, of the nationalist Convergence and Union Party (CiU), said on the eve of the celebration.

Tens of thousands of people waving red and yellow striped Catalan flags, said to be one of the oldest flags still in use in Europe, gathered at midday on Tuesday in the Ciudadela Park in Barcelona for a noisy tribute to Catalan culture.

Later, demonstrators from across the region, some urging full independence, others calling for more autonomy from Madrid, will march under the slogan "Catalonia, a new European state."

When Spain returned to democracy in the mid-1970s, regions such as Catalonia and the Basque Country saw a vibrant resurgence of their culture and languages that had been crushed during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

Catalonia - home to 15 percent of Spaniards and with 20 percent of the country's economic output - has long fought for more autonomy from Madrid, although it never had a violent separatist movement like the Basque Country's ETA.

A poll by the regional government in July showed for the first time that more than half of Catalonia's population favors independence.

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