Skip to main content

Catalans to link up in human chain today in their call for secession from Spain

By Al Goodman, CNN
September 11, 2013 -- Updated 1222 GMT (2022 HKT)
People wrapped in 'Estelada' Catalan independence flags march during a rally for independence in Barcelona on September 10.
People wrapped in 'Estelada' Catalan independence flags march during a rally for independence in Barcelona on September 10.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Organizers say 370,000 people have signed up to take part
  • The chain is expected to stretch for 400 kilometers (about 250 miles)
  • Catalan politicians are calling for a vote on self-determination by the end of 2014
  • But the Spanish government says that Catalonia already has sufficient home-rule powers

Madrid (CNN) -- Hundreds of thousands of Catalans in northeastern Spain are due to increase pressure on Madrid for an independent, breakaway state Wednesday by forming a human chain for 400 kilometers (about 250 miles).

The human chain is organized by the grass-roots, citizen-led Catalan National Assembly, which last year on September 11 -- Catalonia's national day -- turned out an estimated 1.5 million people in Barcelona, the regional capital.

Catalan politicians followed up by demanding a referendum on self-determination by the end of 2014, which the Spanish government in Madrid staunchly opposes.

Spain's next threat: Losing 20% of its economy

Independence parties score in Catalonia
Who's to blame: Catalonia or Madrid?
Catalan beer back from the dead

While the political battle continues between Spain's two largest cities, Madrid and Barcelona, the human chain has emerged as the latest rallying point.

Organizers say 370,000 Catalans have signed up to take part, and they predict tens of thousands more will also participate. The chain will traverse Catalonia from the north, near the French border, to the south, on its border with the Spanish region of Valencia.

"It will be an innocent but powerful image to push the process ahead, holding hands," said Alfred Bosch, who represents Catalonia's pro-independence Republican Left party in Spanish Parliament in Madrid.

Dubbed the "Catalan Way Toward Independence," the human chain shows the process can only "go ahead, forward, and not back," Bosch said.

But the Spanish government doubts that. It says that Catalonia, with 7.5 million people, already has broad home-rule powers, including its own parliament, police force and control over education and health.

Catalonia's fight for independence: Lessons from the Dutch

And Madrid insists that the Spanish Constitution does not allow any of Spain's 17 regions to unilaterally break away, even one like Catalonia that has its own flag and language.

On the eve of the human chain, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said political leaders should find a way to keep Catalonia within Spain.

But Catalan's president, Artur Mas, in an opinion article published Wednesday in The New York Times, wrote: "We ... seek no harm to Spain. We are bound together by geography, history and our people, as more than 40 percent of Catalonia's population came from other parts of Spain or has close family ties. We want to be Spain's brother, as equal partners."

Catalan parliament pushes self-determination

Catalonia says it's been the junior partner for too long. It produces 19% of Spain's wealth and says it sends far more in taxes to Madrid than it gets back in central government spending. It recalls a long history of slights, and at certain times outright repression, by Spain.

The human chain will start at 17:14 local time (11:14 a.m. ET), to honor Catalans who on September 11, 1714, lost a decisive battle to Spanish troops. The chain will last about an hour.

The current polemic is not just between Catalonia and Spain. Within Catalonia, there is also tension between leading political forces over the timing, and the potential wording, of the referendum.

President Mas, whose center-right Convergence and Union party governs only because of support from the Republican Left, seemed to leave the door open last week for a vote on self-determination later than 2014, perhaps in 2016. He has since repeated that he favors the 2014 deadline.

But the Republican Left and those organizing the human chain insist it must be by the end of 2014, with or without the consent of Madrid.

Various opinion polls show a very large majority of Catalans want the right of self-determination. But if independence makes it to the ballot, polls show the result could be tighter, some predicting a victory in the 50% range.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0023 GMT (0823 HKT)
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0046 GMT (0846 HKT)
A 9-year-old girl learning to fire a submachine gun accidentally killed her instructor at a shooting range, according to Arizona authorities.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
ISIS has made surprise gains in Iraq and Syria in recent months, but may begin to suffer setbacks on the battlefield.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
The fear of Russian invasion is receding but peace may still be tricky to find.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1228 GMT (2028 HKT)
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0815 GMT (1615 HKT)
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 2157 GMT (0557 HKT)
The signs exist that indicate U.S. airstrikes into Syria are on the way.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1649 GMT (0049 HKT)
The mother of a hostage freed after two years captivity says it's not time to party.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 0946 GMT (1746 HKT)
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 0600 GMT (1400 HKT)
"I just love it when I get milk-to-dark converts," says Kerrin Rousset, before she leads a small cocoa-hungry crowd through Zurich's Old Town.
ADVERTISEMENT