Catalan leader faces pressure to abandon secession plan

Catalan leader faces pressure to abandon secession plan

Catalan leader faces pressure to abandon secession plan

Many in the crowd marched through the city center under the slogan of "Let's recover our common sense!" carrying Spanish, Catalan, and the European Union flags. Fundacion La Caixa and Criteria also announced they move away from Catalonia to Palma de Mallorca, in the Balearic Islands. "We have perhaps been silent too long", Alejandro Marcos, 44, told AFP.

The rallies come a week after Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and other separatist leaders of the Catalan government held a referendum on secession that the Spanish government branded illegal. "The unity of Spain can not be voted on or negotiated - it must be defended", read one sign in the crowd.

Rajoy says he would only hold talks with Puigdemont's side if the Catalan separatists abandoned their independence bid in line with the Spanish constitution.

Many protesters in Barcelona have called on Mr Rajoy and Mr Puigdemont to negotiate and find a solution to what has been widely regarded as Spain's worst political crisis in almost four decades.

Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has emphatically ruled out negotiating with the Catalan government ahead of its declaration of independence scheduled for October 10.

Several businesses, including major banks, have started moving their legal headquarters out of Catalonia, casting doubt on whether one of Spain's wealthiest regions would risk a major capital flight if it broke off from Madrid. "I rule out absolutely nothing that is allowed for under the law", he said in an interview with El Pais newspaper. "The ideal situation would be to not have to take drastic solutions, but for that to happen there would have to be rectifications". "I would like the threat of an independence declaration to be withdrawn as quickly as possible".

According to Catalonia officials, some 900 civilians and 33 police officers were hurt on referendum day when police sought to stop the vote at some polling stations by force.

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A violent crackdown by police seeking to thwart the vote in the region sparked an worldwide outcry.

Rajoy was forced to apologize on Friday, but many in Catalan say the crackdown has only fueled their desire for independence.

Spain has been rocked by the referendum results and the police violence seen against voters in Catalonia has sparked a huge backlash. After declaring independence for the region in 1934, Companys was sentenced to 30 years in prison for rebellion. But Rajoy assured Catalan leaders that there "is still time" to backtrack and avoid the imposition of direct rule from Madrid. He escaped to France, but ended up executed by Franco's Spanish authorities in 1940 after being handed over by the Nazis.

Artur Mas was the Catalan president between 2010 and 2015 and helped negotiate a new Statute of Autonomy with the Spanish Government before it was overruled by the Constitutional Court. "What they are doing is destroying it".

On October 1, over 90 percent of the 2.26 million Catalans, who participated in the independence referendum, supported region's secession from Spain.

Pre-referendum polls showed a 60 to 40 majority of Catalans in favour of remaining part of Spain.

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