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Catalans Endores Split from Spain
Nov 18, 2014

Millions of Catalans voted recently in a symbolic referendum on independence from Spain that supporters hope will propel the issue further despite opposition from Madrid.  The vote has raised hackles in a country in which the memory of Francisco Franco's 1939 to 1975 dictatorship and the suppression of the Catalan and Basque cultures underpins sensitivities.

A long-standing breakaway movement in Catalonia, which accounts for one-fifth of Spain's economic output and has its own distinct culture and language, grew in strength during the recent years of deep recession. The consultation of citizens in the wealthy northeastern region follows a legal block by the central government against a more formal, albeit still non-binding ballot which regional leaders had been pushing for originally.

Because of the legal restrictions set on it, the ballot was set up and manned by grassroots pro-independence organizations, and Spanish unionist parties argue that, even for that reason alone, it could not legitimately reflect the wishes of anyone.

The restrictions on the vote also means that the turnout number, nearly 2.5 million of 5.4 million potential voters according to the regional government head Artur Mas, is likely be considered more important than the results of the vote itself. Nearly 81 percent of 2.25 million Catalans who participated in a simulated referendum wanted to secede from Spain.

Catalans have wanted independence from Spain for quite some time, but this was the first time they formally voted on it. A lot of Catalans suffered after Spain's civil war of 1936-1939 and, in more recent years, wealthy Catalans resented subsidizing the poorer regions of the country.

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