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Protests in Catalonia over detention of key separatists

Thousands of people took to the streets of Catalonia on Tuesday after a judge ordered the detention of two separatist leaders, further inflaming tensions over the region's chaotic referendum on splitting from Spain.

Protests in Catalonia over detention of key separatists
A woman protesting in Barcelona in response to the arrest of two Catalan separatist leaders. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

Thousands of workers in Barcelona and other cities staged a brief walkout at noon in protest over Monday's move by the National Court in Madrid to keep Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez behind bars on sedition charges.

“Repression is not the solution,” protesters shouted as hundreds gathered outside the Catalan regional government offices in central Barcelona.

READ ALSO: Spain detains high-profile Catalan independence activists

“Now anyone can be put in jail,” said Carme Guell, a 62-year-old beautician who joined the walkout as civil servants from nearby regional ministries blocked the street.

Like many who back independence for semi-autonomous Catalonia — which is profoundly divided on the issue — Guell said the wealthy northeastern region was “treated like a colony. All our money is taken away, nothing is reinvested here”.

Catalonia's separatist government sparked Spain's worst political crisis in decades by holding a banned independence referendum on October 1, when a violent crackdown on voters by national police shocked the world.

READ ALSO: Spanish police used excessive force in Catalonia, Human Rights Watch says

As the standoff shows little sign of easing, Madrid announced late Monday that it was cutting its growth forecast for next year from 2.6 to 2.3 percent.

The prolonged uncertainty has rattled the stock markets, while nearly 700 companies have moved their legal headquarters out of Catalonia, according to official figures released Tuesday.

'Political prisoners'

Further protests against the detention of Cuixart and Sanchez were planned for Tuesday afternoon in front of central government offices in Barcelona, Girona, Tarragona and Lleida, with a candle-lit protest in Barcelona at 8:00 pm.

The pair nicknamed the “two Jordis” are the leaders of pro-independence citizens' groups Omnium Cultural and the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) respectively, both of which count tens of thousands of members and have emerged as influential players in the crisis.

They are accused of encouraging a major protest last month as Spanish police raided the Catalan administration's offices in the run-up to the referendum.

Police officers were trapped for hours and their vehicles vandalised as protesters ringed the building, with Cuixart and Sanchez standing atop a police car calling for “permanent mobilisation” against the Spanish state.

The crime of sedition can carry up to 15 years in prison.

“If you're watching this video, it's because the state has decided to deny me my freedom,” Cuixart said in a message recorded before the court decision, adding that his organisation would work “underground” if necessary.

Though she opposes the current drive for independence, Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau blasted the move to detain Sanchez and Cuixart, who she said were being held as “political prisoners”.

“The existence of political prisoners has no place in the current EU,” she said, announcing the city council would halt meetings for two days in protest.

Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero has also been charged with sedition for allegedly failing to stop the referendum. He has been allowed to walk free, but is banned from leaving Spain.

READ ALSO: Catalan police chief walks free following sedition hearing

Enric Millo, the Spanish government's representative in Barcelona, insisted that the judge's decision had been made independently.

“There is a separation of powers here,” he told Catalunya Radio.


Barcelona mayor Ada Colau (right) and Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont in a protest outside the Generalitat. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

'Nuclear option'?

Madrid has given Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont until Thursday to clarify whether he is declaring independence following the referendum, which resulted in a 90 percent 'Yes' vote — although turnout was only 43 percent as many supporters of Spanish unity stayed away.

Puigdemont stopped short of giving the definitive response that Madrid demanded on Monday and instead repeated his call for talks with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

But anything less than a full climb-down is likely to prompt the central government to start imposing unprecedented direct control over the semi-autonomous region — the so-called “nuclear option”.

With its own language and culture, Catalonia is proud of its autonomy but its 7.5 million people are deeply split over whether to break definitively from the rest of Spain.

Supporters of independence say the region pays more into Spanish coffers than it gets back and could prosper by going it alone, but their opponents say secession would spell political and economic disaster.

Ratings agency Standard and Poor's has warned of a recession in Catalonia — which makes up about a fifth of Spain's economic output — if the crisis drags on.

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CATALONIA

14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local

Barcelona is a popular city for foreign residents in Spain thanks to its coastal location, many international companies and great lifestyle. However, navigating life here can take some getting used to, so here are our top Barcelona life hacks to help make things easier for you.

14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local
Barcelona life hacks. Image: Michal Jarmoluk / Pixabay

Invest in a good water filter

Barcelona tap water doesn’t taste the best, particularly in the areas around the Old Town such as El Born, the Gothic Quarter, Barceloneta and Raval. The water is also very hard, meaning that it leaves limescale on appliances such as your kettle.

Using a good water filter can improve the taste and make sure that limescale doesn’t build up. It’s also much more economical and healthier than buying bottled water every time you want a drink.

Use the Rodalies trains to get across the city faster

Many people when they first move to Barcelona just use the metro and don’t bother using the Rodalies trains. While it’s not always necessary, for certain journeys it can make getting across the city much faster.

For example, if you need to get from Sant Andreu or Clot to Sants to connect to one of the intercity trains, it’s only two or three stops on the Rodalies, as opposed to more than 10 on the metro, as well as changing to different lines.

Don’t try and get anything important done in August

This is probably true of most of Spain, but if you need to get anything important done, whether official paperwork or renovations on your apartment, don’t try and get them done in August.

The whole city goes on holiday for the month of August, including office personnel, builders and handypeople. If you need to get any of this done, it’s best to get it done before the holidays or to wait until September.  

Don’t buy drinks from sellers on the beach or in the park

You’ll find many people selling drinks on the city’s beaches and in the main Ciutadella Park. While it can be tempting to buy these, especially when it’s so hot, you need to be aware that these cans of drinks are often stored inside drains or under manhole covers, meaning that they’re not the cleanest.

A few years ago, El País took the mojitos sold by hawkers on the beaches to a local lab. The results came back a few days later to show that they contained high levels of fecal matter and bacteria in them.

Barcelona’s Chinese supermarkets are a great source of ingredients

Although you can now find many more foreign ingredients in local supermarkets than you could just a few years ago, there are still many that you may miss from back home, particularly South East Asian and Indian ingredients.

Barcelona has several excellent Chinese supermarkets, where you can find a range of ingredients, everything from sesame oil and Thai curry paste to Indian spices and affordable peanut butter.

Don’t take valuables out with you to certain areas, particularly at night

Unfortunately, bag snatchings and pickpockets are still commonplace in Barcelona. While the thieves mainly target tourists, foreign residents often find that they are targets too.

The trick is to blend in like a local, look like you know where you’re going and don’t take valuables with you to areas such as the Gothic Quarter, Raval or the Rambla, especially at night. Bag snatchings in El Born have also increased in recent years, so keep your wits about you around there too. 

Find your favourite beach outside of the city

Barcelona’s beaches may have been one of your prime reasons for moving here, but you’ll find that you actually prefer the beaches outside of the city.

Overcrowded, dangerous and a lot dirtier than other beaches in the area, the beaches in Barcelona are unfortunately not all that they’re cracked up to be. You’ll often find that after you’ve been for a swim, your valuables will not still be on the sand where you left them. Head just 15 to 20 minutes outside of the city however and you’ll find the beaches are far nicer and safer.

Find a beach outside of the city centre to go to. Photo: makunin /Pixabay

Try to join several different clubs or groups

Barcelona is a very transient city, meaning that people are moving here and leaving all the time. As a result, you’ll often find that most of the friends you made when first moving here have now moved away and you’ll constantly need to make more. If you join several clubs and groups, you’ll find that making new friends all the time is a lot easier. 

Don’t buy a single transport ticket

It’s never really worth buying a single transport ticket in Barcelona, because you’ll end up spending much more money per journey than you would if you bought the T-Casual (10 journeys) or the monthly T-Usual metro card instead.

You can also buy 10-journey bono tickets for the Rodalies trains, which will also save a lot of money if you’re making regular journeys out of the city. 

Try and avoid shopping at Port del Angel on Saturdays

Port del Angel is Barcelona’s main pedestrianised shopping street. While it’s great and has all the high-street fashion shops you want, it can be a nightmare shopping here on Saturdays.

If you do need to shop on a Saturday, try Rambla Catalunya or one of the shopping malls instead, which won’t be so crowded.

Be prepared for festivals and events

Barcelona holds so many festivals and events that it can be hard to keep up. In normal (non-Covid) years, there is one every other week.

Because of this tickets sell out quickly and there are many fun cultural events that you might miss out on. Keep your calendar up to date, so you know what’s going on, and make sure to book tickets for anything you want to see, well in advance. 

Tipping isn’t necessary at all bars and restaurants

Tipping isn’t all that common in Barcelona, unless perhaps if it’s a particularly nice restaurant or if there’s a large group of you that the waiter has had to look after.

You’ll find that it’s not expected either, except maybe at some of the city’s very touristy restaurants.  

READ ALSO: Why do Catalans have a reputation for being stingy?

Do lots of research before renting an apartment and if it sounds too good to be true, then it is

Unfortunately, there are lots of property scams in Barcelona, so try and do as much research as you can beforehand. Never pay money upfront before you’ve seen the property and received the keys.

Also, be aware that many landlords will not return your deposit at the end of your stay.

Many people get around this by not paying the last month’s rent, but this can also make things difficult for the good landlords who may genuinely need to deduct something for damages, so speak with your estate agency on the best thing to do in this situation.

READ ALSO: What you should know about renting an apartment in Barcelona

Hire a gestor or lawyer to help with immigration and tax issues

You’ll save yourself a lot of time and hassle with immigration and tax issues if you hire a professional to help you in Barcelona, where getting a cita previa (appointment) for official matters can often be difficult, in part because these law firms often bulk book them.

However, there are certain processes that you won’t need an immigration lawyer for such as getting a residency certificate if you’re from an EU country or exchanging your green residency certificate for a TIE if you are British and moved here before the end of 2020.

READ ALSO: BREXIT: How to apply for a TIE residency card in Spain

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