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Spain: Catalans ponder independence in Barcelona

 A man casts his ballot during an informal referendum of Catalan independence in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, April 10, 2011. Pro-independence activists ...
 People wait to cast their ballots during a informal referendum on Catalan independence in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, April 10, 2011. Pro-independence ...
 A child casts his father's ballot, during a referendum of Catalan independence in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, April 10, 2011. Pro-independence activist...

Spain Catalonia Referendum

A man casts his ballot during an informal referendum of Catalan independence in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, April 10, 2011. Pro-independence activists ...

Spain Catalonia Referendum

People wait to cast their ballots during a informal referendum on Catalan independence in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, April 10, 2011. Pro-independence ...

Spain Catalonia Referendum

A child casts his father's ballot, during a referendum of Catalan independence in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, April 10, 2011. Pro-independence activist...

Barcelona dwellers gave a lukewarm thumbs-up to the idea of full autonomy from Spain in an informal, nonbinding referendum organized by pro-independence activists on Sunday.
Just over 91 percent said yes to the idea of full independence, however the turnout was a modest 21.4 percent in Spain's second largest city, which is also the capital of Catalonia.
Foreign residents and 16-year-olds were allowed to vote, following in the footsteps of other regional cities, towns and villages that had previously held similar informal ballots.
Warm, sunny weather drew many people onto the streets of this thriving Mediterranean port city, but most seemed more interested in strolling and watching typical Catalan activities _ like Sardana folk dances or the building of 10-man tall human towers _ than in voting.
Still, organizers were upbeat about the result.
"We increased the response level, we didn't expect this result," said spokeswoman Elisenda Paluzie. Previous informal referendums in the region had achieved a 20 percent turnout.
Maria Garcia, a 79-year-old retiree, said she voted "yes" to independence to allow Catalans greater control of their own finances. "Spain's central government takes more than it gives back," she said.
Catalans are proud of their cultural identity _ centered on the distinct Catalan language _ and their thrifty, hardworking nature which accounts for around one-fifth of Spain's economy.
The region's nearly 7 million people _ Spain's total population is 47 million _ have long maintained they contribute more than they get credit for and that central governments based in Madrid have discriminated against them.
Along with the Basque region, Catalonia was heavily oppressed under the 1939-1975 dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco, which made it a crime to speak Catalan and Basque languages in the interest of promoting Spain as a Madrid-run Castilian-speaking unified country.
Successive Spanish governments have gradually granted a large degree of self-rule to the regions since Franco's death and the restoration of democracy.
Catalonia won even more self-rule in 2006 with a new autonomy charter, gaining control over judicial, infrastructure and other issues. However, the Constitutional Court ruled in July 2010 that Catalonia could not legally call itself a nation, dealing a blow to a pro-independence campaign that had used "We decide, we are a nation" as its slogan.
Sunday's "Barcelona Decides" poll organizers said that since the first vote in 2009 a total of 600,000 Catalan citizens in 532 cities and towns have been unofficially consulted. The 2009 sample taken in 167 towns indicated 94 percent of voters favored independence.
Skeptics have called the nonbinding vote an exercise in futility.
"I think the referendum is theater put on by politicians," said lawyer Juan Jose Millan, 39. "I am not for independence, just like the majority of Catalans. Independence would not solve real problems like unemployment."
Only Spain's national government _ elected in a general election _ can hold or agree to legally binding referendums.
___
Associated Press writer Harold Heckle in Madrid contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-06-14 11:56 GMT+08:00