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Catalonia’s President Artur Mas said he’ll push for independence from Spain unless the central government allocates a bigger share of tax revenue to the region.
“If we cannot reach a financial agreement, the road to freedom for Catalonia is open,” Mas said at a press conference today to mark Catalan national day. “The force of common national assertion is enough to succeed.”
Nationalists in Catalonia, Spain’s biggest regional economy, are looking to capitalize on the financial crisis roiling Spain to gain independence. The region’s obligations to transfer tax revenue to the national coffers to help poorer regions forced Mas to request a 5 billion-euro ($6.4 billion) loan from the regional rescue fund last month.
Catalonia transfers 15 billion euros a year of tax revenue to the rest of Spain, equivalent to about 8 percent of the region’s gross domestic product, Mas’s administration said. The region’s credit rating was cut to junk by Standard & Poor’s on Sept. 1 following the bailout request.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy criticized Mas for trying to take advantage of a national crisis.
“This is the last thing we need right now,” Rajoy said in a television interview last night. “Can we get our priorities straight, please.”
Rajoy said when Catalonia filed its call for aid on Aug. 28 that the central government will assist the region.
Thousands of Catalans gathered in Barcelona to demonstrate in favor of independence today, images on state broadcaster TVE showed. An official at the regional police department, who asked not to be identified in accordance with policy, declined to estimate how many people participated.
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