Leftist Catalan leader threatens Spain with debt default
Oriol Junqueras, leader of the Catalan Republican Left party (ERC), sharpened the tone in a tense standoff with Madrid a week ahead of a planned symbolic independence vote that the national government has tried to ban.
"If the Spanish state does not negotiate, that will make it impossible for the Catalan economy to shoulder the debt and Spain will enter into default," Junqueras was quoted as saying in an interview with daily newspaper El Pais.
Catalonia's debt is nearly EUR 62 billion (USD 78 billion) according to the Spanish central bank's figures for the second quarter of 2014 -- equivalent to about six percent of Spain's overall debt.
ERC has gained in influence as Catalonia's conservative nationalist president Artur Mas struggles to fufill his promise of a referendum on independence for the region, in the face of legal challenges from Madrid.
An opinion poll published by Mas's government on Friday showed that ERC could overtake Mas's CiU by winning up to 39 seats in the regional parliament while Mas's share of the seats could fall to 32.
Junqueras's party currently props up Mas in the parliament but their two parties disagree on how to tackle Madrid's fierce resistance to the independence vote.
The Spanish government launched a fresh judicial challenge on Friday against the symbolic vote planned for November 9.
Mas promptly vowed his own legal counter-attack.
ERC has called for a snap election to serve as a plebiscite on independence.
Proud of their distinct language and culture, Catalans have been demanding greater autonomy over recent years.
The region of 7.
5 million inhabitants accounts for nearly a fifth of Spain's economy but was hit hard like the rest of the country by the financial crisis that erupted in 2008..
© 2014 AFP