Protesters blocked a train station and several freeways in the Spanish region of Catalonia on Tuesday, the second day of protests against the arrest of nine separatists on Monday, convicted by the Spanish Supreme Court for their participation in a failed attempt. of secession.
Police stepped in to withdraw protesters, outnumbered today than on Monday, while another demonstration in central Barcelona closed one of the main traffic routes – and pro-independence leaders promised to continue to press Madrid for the holding. of a new referendum.
Several other rallies were planned for late Tuesday afternoon and the pro-independence trade union confederation IAC announced a general strike in Catalonia on Friday against labor laws that unions say infringe workers' rights.
Oriol Junqueras received the longest sentence, 13 years old, for his participation in organizing the 2017 referendum, which was considered illegal. Junqueras told Reuters in his first interview after sentencing that this would only galvanize the independence movement.
"Let's not stop thinking as we think. Ideals cannot be made unfeasible by (prison) sentences," he said, stating that a new popular consultation was "inevitable."
The head of the regional government, Quim Torra, defended the mass protests for the sentences he described as unacceptable.
"A new phase begins when we take the initiative and put the implementation of the right to self-determination back to the center" of our proposals, said Torra, urging Madrid to pay attention and start negotiations accordingly.
Protesters blocked railways on Monday and thousands gathered at Barcelona International Airport, where some even clashed with police after Junqueras and eight other leaders were convicted of sedition and arrested by nine. to 13 years.
An airport spokesman said 110 flights were canceled on Monday and 45 on Tuesday because of the disturbance.
All defendants were acquitted of the most serious charge of rebellion, but the length of the prison sentences – which Junqueras said they planned to appeal to the European Court – provoked anger in Catalonia.
Two years after the failure of the first referendum, Catalonia's independence still dominates much of Spain's (fractured) political debate, and the decision is likely to enliven the Nov. 10 legislative, the fourth in Spain over the past four years.
Acting Foreign Minister Josep Borrell acknowledged that Catalonia's independence issue with Spain will not end with the sentence: "Yesterday, today and tomorrow remains a political problem that needs to be resolved," he said, urging always respecting the Constitution.
Dialogue? What dialogue?
However, Borrell added that the independence movement has ignored all those in Catalonia who are not in favor of moving away from Spain, saying, "This is a totalitarian attitude." Separatists have repeatedly rejected these accusations.
A dialogue could focus on greater autonomy for Catalonia, possibly focused on a multi-national framework that fits Spanish federalism, said Santi Vila, one of three convicted leaders who were not sent to prison.
A well-known critic of the secessionist agenda, he who resigned as business adviser to the Catalan government shortly before the declaration of independence, Vila called for a new election in the region, something that the head of regional government, Quim Torra, opposes.
"It seems reasonable to me that when two governments have this communication problem … it is important to ask citizens if the way forward is correct or not," said 46-year-old Vila. Although it also supports a referendum, it says it should not be about total independence, but about giving more autonomy to the regional government.
Spain's main parties have refused to hold a referendum on Catalonia's independence, although the acting socialist government says it is open to dialogue on other issues.
Spanish government spokeswoman Isabel Celaá said it is time to "start a new political chapter", insisting that the government intends to talk to the Catalans – once again respecting the constitution.
Diana Riba, who is the wife of one of yesterday's convicted leaders, Raul Romeva, told Reuters the campaign for independence would prevail over time.
"This is a very long process, but we will see results as we did with the feminist movement, which grew to become massive and achieved the rights it sought," he said, urging "everyone to take to the streets."
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