MADRID — Catalan activists on Monday marked the primary anniversary of their disputed independence referendum by blocking practice tracks and roads throughout Spain’s restive northeastern area, underlining how charged the battle over separatism stays.
Early on Monday, separatist activists briefly blocked the tracks of the high-speed practice that hyperlinks Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, to town of Girona to the north. In addition they minimize off some highways, in addition to an important roads that cross Barcelona. In Girona, they broke right into a authorities constructing to interchange the Spanish flag with the separatist Catalan flag. Hundreds of scholars took to the streets of Barcelona, forward of a broader rally scheduled for late afternoon.
The referendum anniversary adopted clashes on Saturday between the police and demonstrators that left two dozen protesters injured and 6 detained. The police intervened to cease separatists who have been attempting to stop a separate demonstration backed by the police labor union, to honor the Spanish officers who intervened to dam the independence vote.
A yr after the referendum, Catalan society stays deeply cut up over whether or not the area ought to have been allowed to carry the vote, and a few Catalan elected officers who defied the central authorities stay in jail or in self-imposed exile. The political impasse reveals no signal of ending quickly, regardless that the political management has not too long ago switched in each Madrid and Barcelona.
Final yr, beneath Catalonia’s regional president, Carles Puigdemont, the area’s separatist authorities solid forward with the Oct. 1 independence referendum, regardless that it had been declared unlawful by Spain’s courts and the central authorities, which urged voters to not take part.
The Catalan police drive refused to intervene to stop the vote, so the federal government in Madrid, headed by Mariano Rajoy, then the prime minister, used 10,000 cops who had been despatched from different components of the nation to disrupt the referendum. They wielded batons and fired rubber bullets in an try to shut down polling stations and disperse voters — clashes that dominated information protection, because the vote descended into chaos.
Mr. Rajoy had promised to cease the referendum, however his hard-line strategy failed to stop voting from happening, although the end result was declared null and void by Madrid. With anti-secession voters heeding his name to boycott the referendum, the proposal to create an unbiased Catalan republic received an amazing majority of the votes solid.
Separatist lawmakers used the end result to make a botched declaration of independence, and the central authorities responded by ousting the separatist leaders and imposing direct rule over Catalonia for a number of months.
In June, Quim Torra took workplace as regional chief of Catalonia, vowing to pursue the separatist agenda of Mr. Puigdemont, who resides in Belgium to keep away from a Spanish arrest warrant. However Mr. Torra has not supplied any particular plan to place his area again on the street towards independence.
Mr. Torra heads a fragile coalition of separatist events which are more and more cut up over whether or not to impress one other conflict with Madrid, at a time when a brand new Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has supplied as an alternative to return to political dialogue. The separatists are effectively conscious that any steps towards secession may land them earlier than the Supreme Court docket, the place they’d be part of some former colleagues who’re already in jail, awaiting trial.
Then again, Mr. Sánchez — who additionally took workplace in June, after a sequence of scandals introduced down Mr. Rajoy’s authorities — has a tenuous grip on energy in Madrid, and has struggled to change considerably the state of affairs in Catalonia. He leads a minority Socialist authorities that’s beneath intense strain from his center-right opponents not solely to withstand Mr. Torra, but in addition to reassert central authorities management of Catalonia ought to Mr. Torra refuse to desert secessionism.
On Monday, Pablo Casado, the brand new chief of the Fashionable Celebration of Mr. Rajoy, Spain’s most important conservative celebration, known as on Mr. Sánchez to both restore rule from Madrid, or name a snap common election.
Mr. Sánchez was elected promising to revive the political dialogue with Catalan separatists, and he met with Mr. Torra shortly after taking workplace. A authorities official not too long ago instructed that Catalan politicians accused of insurrection for organizing final October’s referendum may finally be granted pardons, however when requested about that chance on a visit final month to Montreal, Mr. Sánchez solely replied that extra “empathy” was wanted in Catalonia.
On Monday morning, Mr. Torra and different separatist officers marked the anniversary by touring to a small municipality close to Girona, the place Mr. Puigdemont had deliberate to vote final Oct. 1 earlier than he was prevented from reaching the polling station by the Spanish police. Mr. Torra deposited a carnation on a set of images displaying Catalan politicians who’ve both fled Spain or are in jail, awaiting trial for his or her involvement within the referendum.
Roger Torrent, the separatist speaker of the Catalan Parliament, informed the gang that final October’s referendum “reveals us the trail we now have to take, that of the poll packing containers, of the democracy that we’ll by no means abandon.”
After being ousted by the central authorities, Mr. Puigdemont and different members of his authorities fled on the finish of October to Brussels, the place he has prevented extradition and managed to stay on the entrance line of Catalan politics, on the helm of a brand new celebration. On Monday, he launched a video message through which he informed his supporters that the creation of a Catalan republic remained “the one potential technique to dwell in a full democracy.”
Whereas many Catalans have been marking final yr’s referendum, a really totally different commemoration was scheduled for Monday in Madrid, to mark the top of the separatist violence within the Basque area and to honor its victims. The separatist group ETA formally dissolved itself this yr, after killing greater than 800 individuals throughout a long time of bombings and focused assassinations in its push for an unbiased Basque homeland.
The ceremony might be attended by Mr. Sánchez in addition to by the French prime minister, Édouard Philippe, and the chief of the Basque area of Spain, Iñigo Urkullu. Mr. Philippe was additionally attributable to hand over to the Spanish authorities hundreds of paperwork and different materials seized by the French police from ETA, whose militants sought to make use of neighboring France as a protected haven from the place they may plan terrorist assaults throughout the border.