CLOSE

The leader of Catalonia said the referendum vote is Oct. 1. It’s the country’s latest push to separate from Spain.
Video provided by Newsy
Newslook

Carles Puigdemont intends to become leader of the world’s newest independent state next week. Instead, he may spark a violent confrontation with Spanish authorities and wind up in jail. 

Puigdemont, 54, a former journalist and president of Spain’s semi-autonomous region of Catalonia in northeastern Spain, is pressing ahead with an independence referendum on Sunday.

Spain’s central government in Madrid insists the vote is illegal and has taken legal and physical steps to block it. It has seized millions of ballots, detained 14 senior officials organizing the vote, shut down election websites and deployed thousands of police to bar access to voting stations.  

The vote is the most serious political crisis facing Spain since it returned to democracy following the death of longtime military dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

The independence drive is fueled by the belief that Catalonia and its tourist-mecca capital, Barcelona, give more than they get from Madrid, and that the region’s unique culture and language are not respected by the Spanish state, according to Puigdemont.

The wealthy region, where 7.5 million of Spain’s 46 million people live, accounts for approximately one-fifth of the country’s economy. It is one of 17 semi-autonomous Spanish regions. 

If the vote takes place, and passes convincingly, Puigdemont has vowed to announce a split from Spain within 48 hours. Two years ago, 80% of Catalan voters backed independence in a symbolic vote, but turnout was less than 40%, muddying its conclusiveness.

An opinion poll from July showed 49% of Catalans…