Catalonia announces independence referendum

The Spanish government will block any attempt to further an independence process in Catalonia, spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said, after the head of the northeastern region called a referendum on secession on October 1.

In a speech in Madrid last month, Puigdemont said his government had a "democratically inviolable" commitment to the referendum and accused Spain's prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, of failing to do anything "serious, honest or real" to resolve the issue.

The government of Catalonia says it has been open to negotiating the terms of the referendum or coming to an agreement, but has been ignored by Madrid.

The Catalan government has yet to formally sign off on its announced referendum.

Under Article 155 of Spain's constitution, Madrid has the power to intervene directly in the running of Catalonia's regional government, forcing it to drop the vote.

The announcement on Friday set the stage for months of confrontation with the central government in the capital, Madrid, which says such a vote is illegal and must not take place.

The central government has previously blocked secessionist challenges through appeals to Spain's Constitutional Court.

The Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, said that voters in the unilateral referendum would be asked the question: "Do you want Catalonia to be an independent country in the form of a republic?"

In March this year, Mas was found guilty of disobeying the constitutional court's ruling and banned from holding public office for two years.

Earlier this week, Deputy Premier Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, who has been tasked by Rajoy to deal with Catalonia, said: "They can announce that referendum as many times as they want and delay it for weeks or hold as many events as they want, but the referendum will not be held". "But the referendum will not be held", she said. "It is in our hands to prove that democracy unites us all above the legitimate and healthy discrepancies that characterize mature societies".

Catalonia is the rich northeastern region that has a population of 7.5 million and produces one fifth of Spain's GDP.

In a symbolic poll held three years ago, more than 80 percent of participants opted for independence, however, only 2.3 million of Catalonia's 5.4 million eligible voters had taken part, reports said. "We are facing an increasingly radical strategy that has less and less support". A majority of the votes cast in that referendum were in favour of independence from Spain.

Circulo de Economia, a civic association that includes a high number of prominent companies, urged both sides last month to resolve the conflict by finding "alternative means that are not just black and white".

Its executive director, Jordi Alberich, recently told The Associated Press that the political deadlock has not led to economic losses in the region for now.

  • Julie Sanders