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Thousands Protest in Barcelona Against Catalan Independence

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Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Catalonia’s capital Barcelona on Sunday to express their opposition to any declaration of independence from Spain, showing how divided the region is on the issue.

The protesters rallied in central Barcelona, waving Spanish and Catalan flags and banners saying “Catalonia is Spain” and “Together we are stronger”, as politicians on both sides hardened their positions in the country’s worst political crisis for decades.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Saturday he would not rule out removing Catalonia’s government and calling a fresh local election if it claimed independence, as well as suspending the region’s existing autonomous status.

The stark warning came days before Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is expected to address the region’s parliament, on Tuesday, when he could unilaterally declare independence.

“We feel both Catalan and Spanish,” Araceli Ponze, 72, said as she rallied in Barcelona. “We are facing a tremendous unknown. We will see what happens this week but we have to speak out very loudly so they know what we want.”

The wealthy northeastern region of 7.5 million people, which has its own language and culture, held an independence referendum on Oct. 1 in defiance of a Spanish court ban.

More than 90 percent of the 2.3 million people who voted backed secession, according to Catalan officials. But that turnout represented only 43 percent of the region’s 5.3 million eligible voters as many opponents of independence stayed away.

The Spanish government sent thousands of national police into the region to prevent the vote. About 900 people were injured when officers fired rubber bullets and charged crowds with truncheons in scenes that shocked Spain and the world, and dramatically escalated the dispute.

Losing Catalonia is almost unthinkable for the Spanish government.

It would deprive Spain of about 16 percent of its people, a fifth of its economic output and more than a quarter of its exports. Catalonia is also the top destination for foreign tourists, attracting about a quarter of Spain’s total.

The political stand-off has pushed banks and companies to move their headquarters outside Catalonia. Concern is growing in EU capitals about the impact of the crisis on the Spanish economy, the fourth largest in the euro zone, and on possible spillovers to other economies.

Some European officials are also worried that any softening in Spain’s stance towards Catalan independence could fuel secessionist feelings among other groups in Europe such as Belgium’s Flemings and Italy’s Lombards.

The demonstration in Barcelona was organized by the anti-independence group Catalan Civil Society under the slogan “Let’s recover our senses” to mobilize what it believes is a “silent majority” of citizens in Catalonia who oppose independence.

“The people who have come to demonstrate don’t feel Catalan so much as Spanish,” said 40-year-old engineer Raul Briones, wearing a Spanish national soccer team shirt. “We like how things have been up until now and want to go on like this.”

It was a second day of protests after tens of thousands of people gathered in 50 cities across Spain on Saturday, some defending Spain’s national unity and others dressed in white and calling for talks to defuse the crisis.

Until this weekend, Rajoy has remained vague on whether he would use article 155 of the constitution, the so-called nuclear option which enables him to sack the regional government and call a local election.

Asked if he was ready  to do so, Rajoy told El Pais newspaper: “I don’t rule out anything that is within the law … Ideally, we shouldn’t have to take drastic solutions but for that not to happen there would have to be changes.”

The conservative prime minister ruled out using mediators to resolve the crisis – something Puigdemont has said he is open to – and said the issue would not force a snap national election.

Rajoy added the government would “prevent any declaration of independence from materializing in anything”.

“Spain will continue being Spain,” he said.

Nicola Sturgeon, the pro-independence leader of Scotland, which voted to remain part of the United Kingdom in a 2014 referendum, said: “Everyone has to accept reality, this will not be resolved by both sides going to extreme positions.”

“You can’t simply say in a democracy there is no legal or legitimate way for people to decide their own future, that would be an absurd position,” she added.

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Motherland News

Grenade attack victims receive blood donations in Ethiopia.

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Solidarity is building up in Ethiopia two days after the grenade attack on a political rally by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Addis Ababa football fans gathered at the National Red Cross to donate blood to victims injured in the explosion.

‘‘My condolences to the families of the victims. We will not stop supporting them. May the souls of those who lost their lives rest in peace’‘, said St. George Football Club supporter, Waqajira Midekisa.



‘‘It is very sad that this has happened at a time when we are working for peace. We didn’t expect this to happen, but we are so happy to be available today to help our brothers and sisters by giving blood at this crucial time’‘, said Kidestemariam Tesafye, organizer of the blood donation exercise.

On Sunday, Ethiopia’s health Minister announced that 2 people have died following the attack.

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The explosion took place when the new Prime Minister had just finished his speech in front of tens of thousands of people gathered in Meskel Square, in the centre of the capital.

One person was killed and more than 150 injured during ensuing panic moments after the attack.

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Guatemala’s eruption: Gercia digs for lost relatives.

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The ‘official’ search for victims has ended in San Miguel Los Lotes , a town devastated when Guatemala’s deadly Fuego volcano erupted earlier this month.

But some determined locals aren’t giving up, like 48-year-old Eufemia Garcia Ixpata said she would continue to search for some 50 family members lost.



“I’m not going to give up until I have a part of my family and am able to give them a Christian burial. Even if it’s just a few little bones, even if it’s just a piece of cloth”, Garcia said.

Even now, at the crack of dawn, she leaves the shelter where she’s been living, to go out and dig for dozens of missing relatives.

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For Garcia , the search has at times been highly emotional. She found the remains of one of her children. And also found some remains of her mother – a 75-year-old who had decided she could NOT outrun the volcanic flow.

Whenever the alarms ring out warning of more volcanic activity Garcia puts her search through the rubble on hold— and instead visits the morgue or checks local hospitals. She only stops to eat when food is shoved in front of her by aid workers.

And Garcia is not alone in her anguish.

Scores of people remain missing, while hundreds of survivors remain in shelters, wondering what happened to their loved ones when volcanic ash rained down on their home.

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Over 900 migrants picked up off Coast of Libya.

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Libya’s coastguard picked up 490 migrants off the coast of Tripoli on Sunday in the third rescue operation of the day.

Rami Ghameed, the commander of the Ras Ajdir ship which picked up the migrants, said that throughout the day, a number of coastguard ships across the country’s waters picked up a little over nine hundred migrants from a total of six rubber dinghies.



‘‘There were a total of six rubber boats, two were rescued by (the Libyan coastguard’s) central sector, the Ras Ajdir ship rescued three of the boats, and the Sabratha (coastguard) ship rescued one boat. The Sabratha ship is on its way to Tripoli’s naval base.

The number of those rescued on the boats picked up by the central sector was around 361 people, and this ship, the Ras Ajdir, picked up around 490 people’‘, Ghameed said.

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Sunday’s rescue operations brought the total number of migrants trying to reach Europe, but taken back to Libya, to well over 1,000 since last week alone.

Libya’s western coast is the main departure point for migrants fleeing wars and poverty and trying to reach Europe.

The number of crossings has sharply dropped since July 2017 due to a more active coastguard presence with support from the European Union.

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