Basques form human chain in call for right to vote on independence

Majority in Spain’s Basque Country do not seek autonomy but support right to choose

Activists hold a Basque flag in a human chain to demand the right to decide on independence, in San Sebastian, northern Spain. Photograph: Gorka Estrada/EPA

Activists hold a Basque flag in a human chain to demand the right to decide on independence, in San Sebastian, northern Spain. Photograph: Gorka Estrada/EPA

 

Tens of thousands of people from Spain’s Basque Country joined hands to form a human chain running some 202km (125 miles) on Sunday to call for the right to hold a regional independence vote.

Spain’s constitution, created in 1978 after the end of dictator Gen Francisco Franco’s regime, states that the country is indivisible and last-year’s attempt by Catalonia to hold a secession referendum was met with a harsh legal crackdown.

Former prime minister with the conservative People’s Party (PP), Mariano Rajoy, who has been roundly criticised for his handling of the Catalan crisis, was ousted by Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez in a no-confidence vote on June 1st. Sanchez, who now heads the government following the vote, has called for renewed talks with the Catalan leadership.

Language and culture

While most from the Basque Country, which already has a high level of self-determination and, like Catalonia, has its own language and culture, do not support independence, many believe the population should be given the right to vote.

The human-chain protest was organised by Basque group Gure Esku Dago (In Our Own Hands) and ran from Donostia (also known as San Sebastian) to the Basque parliament in Gasteiz (Vitoria).

The Spanish government, backed by the constitutional court, maintains that any ballot on regional independence is illegal. An October 1st ballot on Catalonia’s separation from Spain and consequent unilateral declaration of independence by the regional government prompted Madrid to take control of the region and arrest the civil servants involved in the vote. – Reuters