Catalonia on standstill amid hundreds of pro-independence protests

November 8, 2017 1:51 am
Protesters block the C-32 highway near Sitges, during a general strike in ’s , on November 8, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Catalonia has been brought to a standstill as hundreds of pro-independence protesters blocked the main roads and halted transportation in the Spanish region.
On Wednesday, crowds blocked roads in the regional capital of Barcelona and caused heavy traffic jams on the highways leading to the regional capital. They also brought to a halt the high-speed train service in the region.
Holding Catalonia’s flags and banners, which read “Free political prisoners,” protesters also broke into police lines and gathered in front of Catalan and local government buildings in Barcelona.
Across the region, schools were closed, roads were blocked, and trains ran on a reduced service.
Catalans block a highway near Sitges, during a general strike, on November 8, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The general strike was called by pro-independence groups and the CSC trade union to protest the imprisonment of members of Catalonia’s ousted government, which used to be headed by Carles Puigdemont.
The biggest labor unions, CCOO and UGT, said they did not support the strike but would hold protests outside their workplaces.
Pro-independence civil organizations ANC and Omnium as well as students are expected to take to the streets throughout the day.
The Spanish central government sacked Puigdemont and dissolved the regional parliament after legislators passed an independence declaration on October 27. It has called early elections to be held on December 21 to replace the sacked regional government.
Two secessionist parties fail to form coalition
Meanwhile, Catalonia’s two main secessionist parties have so far failed to form an alliance to contest the snap regional elections.
The two main secessionist parties, Puigdemont’s PDeCAT and the ERC Party, could not resolve differences that emerged after a declaration of independence last month.
“It has been impossible to form a joint list and we will therefore have to create a joint front from various candidacies,” said ERC lawmaker Sergi Sabria in a statement.
Protesters block the nudo de la Trinidat access road to Barcelona, November 8, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
On Tuesday, Puigdemont called on Catalonia’s political groups to unite against Madrid.
“The ideal would be a broad regional list of parties… that stand for democracy and freedom,” he said.
The ousted leader said that he might be in jail by the time of the elections, “but prison doesn’t deprive anyone of legitimacy.”
On Sunday, Puigdemont turned himself in to Belgian police. Spain had issued an arrest warrant against him on charges of rebellion and sedition. A Belgian judge, however, released him and four of his former ministers on bail.
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