The leader of Catalonia said the referendum vote is Oct. 1. It’s the country’s latest push to separate from Spain.
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Carles PuigdemontÂ intends to becomeÂ leader of the world’s newest independent state next week. Instead, he may spark a violent confrontation with Spanish authorities and wind upÂ in jail.Â
Puigdemont, 54, aÂ former journalistÂ and president of Spain’sÂ semi-autonomousÂ region of CataloniaÂ in northeastern Spain,Â isÂ pressing ahead with an independence referendum on Sunday.
Spain’s central government inÂ Madrid insists the vote is illegalÂ and has takenÂ legal and physical steps to block it. It has seizedÂ millions of ballots, detainedÂ 14 senior officials organizing the vote, shutÂ down election websites and deployedÂ thousands of police to bar access to voting stations.Â Â
The vote is the most serious political crisis facing Spain sinceÂ it returned to democracy following the death of longtimeÂ military dictatorÂ Francisco Franco in 1975.
The independence drive is fueled by the belief that Catalonia and its tourist-meccaÂ capital, Barcelona, giveÂ more than theyÂ getÂ from Madrid, and that the region’sÂ unique culture andÂ language are not respected by the Spanish state, according to Puigdemont.
The wealthyÂ region, whereÂ 7.5 million of Spain’s 46 millionÂ people live, accounts for approximately one-fifth of the country’s economy. It is one of 17 semi-autonomous Spanish regions.Â
If the vote takes place,Â and passes convincingly, Puigdemont has vowed to announce a split from Spain within 48 hours. Two years ago, 80% of Catalan voters backedÂ independence in a symbolic vote, but turnout was less than 40%, muddying its conclusiveness.
An opinion poll from July showed 49% of Catalans…