Spanish ruling party threatens to jail Catalan leader if he declares independence

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria made what she called "an appeal to sensible people inside the Catalan government not to fling itself into the abyss".

If Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont declares the region independent as promised, possibly by Tuesday, Spain will face its greatest political upheaval since its return to democracy in the 1970s.

Some ruling coalition members say any independence declaration could be simply "symbolic".

Hundreds of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators packed central Barcelona on Sunday to rally against plans by separatist leaders to declare Catalonia independent following a banned secession referendum.

Benet Salellas of the separatist Catalan CUP party said: 'It's very clear to me that those who I represent won't accept any other scenario'. "If there were a declaration of independence it would be unilateral and it wouldn't be recognised", France's minister for European affairs Nathalie Loiseau said.

"We have said yes to so many mediation options that have been proposed", he said.

Spain's national government made it easier for firms to relocate on Friday, passing a law that removes some of the red tape required to shift a company's legal home.

Ms Colau also urged Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to pull out the extra police that have been drafted in to the northeast region as a "gesture of state responsibility".

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As NPR's Lauren Frayer reports from Barcelona, Catalonia's capital, the people in the region are almost evenly divided over the issue of independence even though many who are in favor of staying with Spain may not have voted in the referendum.

Recent opinion polls indicate that Catalans are split on independence, although regional leaders said police violence during the referendum turned many against Madrid.

They waved Spanish and Catalan flags and carried banners saying "Together we are stronger" and "Catalonia is Spain".

The region of Catalonia, home to 7.5 million people in the northeast, is crucial to Spain, which is the EU's fifth-biggest economy and a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

France, on the other hand, said that they will not be recognizing Catalonia should it declare its independence on Tuesday.

Despite the outrage, Rajoy and Spanish King Felipe VI defended the police and doubled down on their stance to take whatever measures necessary to keep Catalonia from seceding.

Spain called the referendum illegal and police in riot gear moved in on the day of the vote to try to forcibly shut it down, firing rubber bullets at unarmed protesters.

Mr Rajoy told Catalan leaders that there is still time to backtrack and avoid Madrid taking over the region's government.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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