Catalonia leader urges ‘definitive referendum’ on independence

The leader of Spain’s Catalonia region, Artur Mas, said Catalans deserved a full-blown referendum

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The leader of Spain’s Catalonia region, Artur Mas, called on Sunday for a “definitive referendum” on independence, after defying the central government by voting in a symbolic breakaway ballot.

Mas said the crowds lining up to vote in Sunday’s non-official ballot showed that Catalans deserved a full-blown referendum on independence and he hoped to persuade Madrid to drop its opposition to such a move.

“Despite the enormous difficulties we have found on our way, on November 9 we are right here... and a lot of people are participating in this outstanding event,” Mas told international reporters in English after voting in a school in Barcelona.

“We deserve the right to vote in a definitive referendum and this is something that maybe is understood in Madrid, but if it is not understood in Madrid our will is to go on with this process.”

Leaders in the rich northeastern Spanish region pushed ahead with Sunday’s vote in defiance of constitutional appeals by Spain’s government.

They were fired up by September’s independence referendum in Scotland -- even though voters there rejected a separation from Britain.

Mas said Catalans had the right to hold a referendum like Scotland and the French-speaking region of Quebec in Canada, which voted against independence in 1995.

“We are going to try to convince people in Madrid after November 9 that the Catalan people deserve a referendum with all political consequences, as the Scottish people had some weeks ago and as the Quebecois people had some years ago. Why not Catalonia?” Mas said.

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said he cannot permit a referendum like Scotland’s because, unlike Britain, Spain has a written constitution that forbids it.

Madrid’s legal challenges forced Mas to water down his planned vote from a non-binding referendum to a merely symbolic ballot organized by volunteers.

Spain’s conservative government fiercely opposes independence for Catalonia, which accounts for a fifth of the country’s economy but is deep in debt after a financial and economic crisis in Spain.

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