Friday, December 13, 2013

Catalonia sets date for independence referendum, but Madrid vows to block it

Catalan parties agree wording of proposed November 2014 referendum but Spanish government says it will
Artur Mas
Artur Mas announceas that political parties in Catalonia have agreed to hold a referendum on independence next November. Photograph: Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images
Separatist parties in Spain's north-eastern Catalonia region on Thursday agreed the wording of an independence referendum proposed for November 2014 but the Spanish government immediately said the vote was illegal and would not happen.
The Catalan regional government head, Artur Mas, said the vote would ask two questions: "Do you want Catalonia to be a state?" and: "Do you want that state to be independent?"
Spain's justice minister, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, immediately said the vote could not take place because the constitution would not allow it.
The ruling People's party and the main opposition Socialists have both decried Catalan breakaway rhetoric. Both have lost substantial voter support in the region as tensions between Catalonia and Madrid have risen.
Catalonia has strong historic and cultural roots and its own language, aside from Spanish. It wants more say over taxes and public spending, demands that have come to a head as Spain has implemented tough austerity measures to cut its budget deficit.
Polls show that around a half of Catalonia's residents would choose independence in a yes-or-no breakaway referendum.
The region, whose capital is Barcelona, makes up a fifth of the Spanish economy and around 15% of its electorate.

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