Spanish regions angry at “provocative” defense minister speech

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Two Spanish regions with strong independence movements reacted angrily on Monday to a speech by the country’s defense minister that said the military was prepared and calm in the face of “absurd provocations”.

Defence Minister Pedro Morenes made the comments at Spain’s annual Epiphany military parade on Sunday, provoking reaction from politicians in Catalonia, where leaders are moving towards a referendum on independence from Spain, and the Basque Country.

“The military is prepared, they are keeping calm and in good spirits and not reacting to absurd provocations,” said Morenes, without directly mentioning either region. He also praised the armed forces as an example of “unity, honesty, generosity and bravery”.

After the death of dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975, Spain was carved up into 17 autonomous regions with power over education and health budgets, as well as the right to use local languages suppressed under Franco. But Spain’s economic crisis has brought regional tensions to the forefront of politics, especially in Catalonia, where many are convinced they would fare better as part of an independent state.

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