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Catalan Crisis Continues


Hundreds of thousands of people have flooded the streets of Barcelona to call for Catalonia to remain part of Spain.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This comes after the Catalan Parliament declared independence on Friday. In response, the Spanish prime minister fired Catalonia's president, its Parliament and its police chief and set a date for new regional elections. I spoke with New York Times reporter Raphael Minder, who's in Barcelona. He says that Catalonia's ousted president could face repercussions.

RAPHAEL MINDER: The Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, has not recognized the decision to fire him. So we are waiting the next step, which will probably come from the attorney general Monday and possibly charge Mr. Puigdemont with rebellion.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Charge him with rebellion - does that mean he would be arrested and put in prison?

MINDER: Well, it means he'll - he could be arrested. He could go on trial for a series of offenses, the most serious of which would be rebellion.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Catalonia is the most prosperous region in Spain. That's part of what is driving this desire for independence. How is this uncertainty impacting businesses in Barcelona and elsewhere, which is such a huge tourist hub as well?

MINDER: We've seen since the start of October about 1,600 companies relocate their headquarters out of Catalonia - their legal headquarters. That's a big blow to the idea that independence brings more prosperity. And we've also seen figures or indicators that obviously people are worried, including tourists, who feel it's not the right time to visit a region where there's been almost daily protests and some strikes. Barcelona has over 10 million overnight visitors a year. It's the hub of the Spanish tourism industry. It's a place that definitely needs its tourists to keep its economy going.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The Spanish government is calling for snap elections to replace the Catalan Parliament. What is the next step?

MINDER: What is the reaction of the separatist parties? Will they actually end up campaigning forcefully in the snap elections of December 21 that have been called by the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy? For them, it's a difficult decision to make because if they boycott the elections, they basically take themselves out of the political arena going forward and allow a new parliament to be formed entirely by unionist politicians. So they then, rather than becoming elected lawmakers arguing for independence, they've essentially become street activists.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Raphael Minder is the author of the book "The Struggle For Catalonia." Thank you so much for joining us.

MINDER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.