Saturday 21 April 2018

Strikes in Catalonia snubbed by unions

Protesters carrying a pro-independence Catalan Estelada flag jump on tracks at the Sants Station in Barcelona Photo: AFP/Getty
Protesters carrying a pro-independence Catalan Estelada flag jump on tracks at the Sants Station in Barcelona Photo: AFP/Getty

Aritz Parra and Lorne Cook, Barcelona

Pro-independence protesters have blocked roads and stopped trains as part of a general strike in Catalonia to protest against the jailing of ousted Catalan government officials and secessionist activists.

Big traffic jams were reported on roads leading to Catalan cities, including the regional capital Barcelona, and on major highways.

But the strike was not backed by Spain's two main unions and was not reported to be having any major effect on industry or the region's prized tourism sector.

National railway operator Renfe said services were halted on dozens of local lines as protesters blocked railway lines.

Several national high-speed lines were also affected.

In northern Girona, several protesters pushed past police controls to enter the city's main railway station. Later, dozens of others occupied the tracks.

Intersindical CSC, a platform of pro-independence workers' unions, had called the strike over labour issues. However, separatist parties and civil society groups asked workers to join the stoppage to protest over the Spanish government's moves against the Catalan bid for independence.

At noon, several thousand pro-independence protesters packed a central square in Barcelona, waving separatist flags and chanting "Freedom" for the 10 people in custody in a judicial probe into rebellion and sedition in the days before and after Catalonia's parliament ignored Spanish court rulings and declared independence on October 27.

Six hours later, thousands gathered again to keep up the pressure on the Madrid-based national government. Some shouted: "Free the political prisoners."

Eight members of the dismissed Catalan cabinet and two activists were sent to jail as a Spanish court studies possible charges of rebellion and sedition against them.

Former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont and four fled to Brussels, where they are fighting Spanish arrest and extradition orders.

Their presence in the European capital is sowing divisions within the Belgian government. Some Belgian MPs have criticised Prime Minister Charles Michel for not taking tougher action against Mr Puigdemont, while others complain the Catalan leader's presence is inflaming Flemish separatist sentiments in Belgium.

Irish Independent

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