Reuters – In Spain, economic crisis fans Catalan separatism

Spain’s economic crisis is exposing deep regional fault lines. Among Catalans on Barcelona’s boulevards the talk is of independence, and Madrid is worried.

This week the king and prime minister called for national unity to get Spainthrough its worst downturn in decades, King Juan Carlos recalling the spirit that built a democracy after dictator Francisco Franco’s death in 1975.

Popular momentum for independence has never been stronger in Catalonia, a wealthy region in northeastern Spain that generates one fifth of the country’s economic output and is home to 16 percent of Spaniards.

More than half of Catalans say they want a separate state, and hundreds of thousands marched in Barcelona last week – the biggest such show of separatist fervour.

Still, few see a rapid road to an independent Catalonia, a dream rooted in the Middle Ages when Barcelona was a Mediterranean trade centre with a parliament.

“It’s going to be a difficult and long process … For us to get it they would have to have a referendum, and they’re not going to give us that,” said Jose Maria Prats, a nurse who joined the march.

The upsurge in Catalan separatism is founded on a conviction that Madrid is draining the region financially.

Read @ Reuters