Catalan police tightened their guard on the region’s parliament on Tuesday where secessionists have threatened to adopt a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain despite warnings from Madrid of swift counter-measures.
Regional leader Carles Puigdemont held a meeting of his cabinet to decide how to press an independence drive that has stirred powerful emotions across Spain and raised concern in European Union partner states, Reuters reported.
Catalan police armed with automatic rifles stood guard at Barcelona’s Parc de la Ciutadella which houses the elegant 18th century building. Spanish national police, decried by separatists over their use of force to hinder an Oct. 1 referendum, were not to be seen.
A declaration of independence would deepen Spain’s biggest political crisis since an attempted military coup in 1981 and would almost certainly draw tough counter-measures from Madrid, possibly including suspension of the regional government.
The parliament and other buildings, such as the regional high court building, could become a focus of contention between Spanish and Catalan authorities.
Thousands of national police reinforcements sent by Madrid for the referendum remain in the area, many of them in two cruise ships docked in Barcelona harbor.
Pro-independence demonstrators were due to gather before the parliament building under the slogan “Hello Republic” to mark Puigdemont’s speech at 6 pm (1600 GMT).
Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in Barcelona against independence at the weekend, waving red-yellow Spanish flags through the city center. That rally fell a week after some 900 people were injured when police fired rubber bullets and stormed crowds with truncheons to disrupt a referendum ruled illegal in Madrid.
Puigdemont has said he is determined to apply a law passed by the Catalan assembly which called for a declaration of independence within days if Catalans voted ‘yes’ in the Oct. 1 referendum.
The government of Spain’s wealthiest region says 90% of those who voted backed independence, but turnout was only 43% as many opponents of independence stayed at home.
The Madrid government has said it will respond immediately to any unilateral declaration.
Markets have been rattled by the Catalan crisis, raising Spain’s borrowing costs and pushing down shares.
Spain’s benchmark 10-year bond yields were a touch lower on Tuesday, but above lows hit the previous session as investors awaited Puigdemont’s speech. Spain’s benchmark Ibex share index was down nearly one percent.
The tension is taking its toll on the business climate. On Monday, three more Catalonia-based companies joined a business drift from the region that has gathered steam since the Oct. 1 referendum.
Property group Inmobiliaria Colonial and infrastructure firm Abertis both decided to relocate their head offices to Madrid and telecoms firm Cellnex said it would do the same for as long as political uncertainty in Catalonia continued.
Publishing house Grupo Planeta said it would move its registered office from Barcelona to Madrid if the Catalan parliament unilaterally declared independence.
Spain’s finance minister said it was the Catalan government’s fault the companies were leaving.
The issue has deeply divided the northeastern region as well as the Spanish nation. Opinion polls conducted before the vote suggested a minority of around 40% of residents in Catalonia backed independence.
date: 13 October 2017 id: 11393 source: