Skip to main content

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

By Al Goodman, CNN
updated 8:22 AM EDT, Wed September 11, 2013
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
updated 9:55 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
The beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley by ISIS militants brings into focus the risks faced by reporters in conflict zones.
updated 8:24 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
About $35,000 was taken from the bank accounts of four passengers on board Flight 370.
updated 9:53 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Five survivors of acid attacks capture India's attention with a "ground breaking" photo shoot.
updated 1:32 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
The execution of a journalist by a British-accented jihadist is a direct challenge to the international community. It's time for the U.S. to move, writes Frida Ghitis.
updated 8:19 AM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
In an exclusive CNN interview, Lance Armstrong admits to having a "f**k you" attitude.
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Summer isn't over yet. These new hotels are keeping it alive and fresh.
updated 11:35 AM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
You've seen her turn on the catwalk, but her income might make your head spin.
updated 8:36 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
The pain that Michael Brown's parents are going through is something Sybrina Fulton can relate to. She, too, lost a son in a controversial shooting.
updated 5:04 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
19-year-old Udi Segal explains why he won't join the country's military.
Drinkers guzzled an incredible 10.3 billion liters of this brand in 2013, making it the world's No.1 beer. And you may have never heard of it.
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.
ADVERTISEMENT