Catalan separatists conquer new bastions of power
BARCELONA, Jun14: Not content with controlling the regional government and hundreds of town halls, Catalonia's independence movement is conquering new power centres even if the mayorship of Barcelona could still be out of reach.
The push follows a failed attempt to declare independence from Spain in October 2017, which prompted the Spanish government to impose direct rule on the semi-autonomous region in Spain's biggest crisis in decades.
In recent months, the movement took over Barcelona's Chamber of Commerce after a campaign to mobilise grassroots support. The pro-independence Intersindical-CSC union won elections among workers in the region's public administration, becoming the union with most representation.
Then in May municipal elections, separatist candidate Ernest Maragall won the most votes. With enough support, he would be the first pro-independence mayor of the city since Spain transitioned to democracy in the 1970s. That looks less likely now, however, as Maragall did not get a majority and looks unlikely to get the support he needs to become mayor.
The separatists' current drive focuses largely on gaining ground in financial or professional institutions.
During the 2017 crisis, thousands of companies moved their legal headquarters out of Catalonia, including the banks CaixaBank and Banco Sabadell, energy group Naturgy and cava-maker Freixenet.
The grassroots campaign was launched in December by the Catalan Business Circle, a pro-secession business group, and the highly influential, separatist ANC civic association. Surveys indicate that more than half of Catalans are not in favour of independence.
But the idea was to encourage those independence supporters in Catalonia not only to go to protests but also to vote for separatist candidates in elections to unions, financial institutions, professional associations or sporting federations. "We realised that apart from parliament, town halls and the government, there was a network of power structures that were mainly in the hands of people who weren't pro-independence," Montse Soler of the ANC said.
Towards new conquests
"Until now, the business community as a whole has been represented by big business, with a unionist message," Joan Canadell, founder of the Catalan Business Circle, said. -AFP