REUTERS – RAQUEL CASTILLO, SAM EDWARDS
Tens of thousands of people gathered across Spain on Saturday as Catalonia prepared to declare independence, many dressed in white and calling for talks to defuse Spain’s worst political crisis for decades.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who has maintained a hard line as the crisis has escalated, told El Pais newspaper on Saturday his government would “prevent any declaration of independence amounting to anything”.
The wealthy northeastern region of Catalonia, with its own language and culture, held a referendum on Oct. 1 on independence, in defiance of the Spanish constitutional court which had ruled the vote illegal.
The Catalan authorities say around 90 percent of those who voted supported a split from Spain. Madrid says secession is illegal under the Spain’s 1978 constitution. Residents of Catalonia who oppose secession largely boycotted the vote.