Catalonia to Face Domestic, International Obstacles if Independence Declared

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Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said he would not rule out using constitutional powers to remove Catalonia's autonomous status if it claims independence.

Almost one week after Spanish police tried to violently shut down Catalonia's vote to become independent from the country, thousands of people rallied in Madrid and Barcelona on Saturday in a more peaceful show of support and opposition. The Catalan government said hundreds of people were injured.

Rajoy, in an interview with El Pais newspaper that will be published in full on Sunday, said Spain will exist for a long time and that he won't allow a declaration of independence to lead to anything. Saturday's flags were all white, emblazoned with the words "parlem" and "hablemos", Catalan and Spanish respectively for "Let's talk".

More protests are expected in Catalonia today as Spain's ruling People's Party holds a pro-unity demonstration in Barcelona.

Some European officials are also anxious that any softening in Spain's stance towards Catalan independence could fuel secessionist feelings among other groups in Europe such as Belgium's Flemings and Italy's Lombards.

Jose Manuel Garcia, a 61-year-old economist at the protest, said: 'This is producing a social rupture in Catalonia and this has to be resolved through dialogue, never via unilateralism.

The demonstrations were in response to last Sunday's disputed referendum on Catalan independence.

Gas Natural said its board had made a decision to move its registered office to Madrid for as long as the legal uncertainty in Catalonia continued, joining moves by several other companies.

The Catalan government says more than 90 per cent of people who voted in the October 1 referendum voted in favour of independence from Spain.

The police violence drew widespread condemnation and forced the government to issue an apology on Friday, although tensions continued to rise after reports of plans for the Catalan parliament to vote on a unilateral declaration of independence on Tuesday.

The prime minister also said he planned to keep extra police deployed to Catalonia before the referendum until the crisis was over.

But some people went further, chanting "Don't be fooled, Catalonia is Spain" and calling for Catalan president Carles Puigdemont to be jailed.

Bartomeu explains. It is now pursing a strategy that says, either Catalonia gives in completely or it unilaterally declares independence.

The struggle over Catalonia represents a breakdown of the political pact that has held together modern Spain.

Valls questions the wish of Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to pull the region from the country, saying they would be leaving the European Union if they did so.

Catalonia's referendum law establishes an "exceptional legal regime" that "prevails hierarchically overall norms which it may conflict with", meaning it overrides other laws.

He added: "I want to say something with absolute clarity - while the threat of independence is in the political landscape, it will be very hard for the government to not take these decisions".

Rajoy also said he planned to leave in Catalonia the extra 4,000 police officers the government had shipped in to region for an independence vote on October 1 until the crisis was over. "I would like to do it at the right time ... that it is more important at the moment".

"Besides Catalans, there are thousands of men and women from all corners of Spain who have come to tell their Catalan companions that they are not alone", said Llosa, who took on Spanish citizenship in addition to that of his native Peru in 1993.

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