Spain summons Venezuela ambassador over Catalonia comments

Madrid has asked Venezuela's ambassador to explain President Nicolas Maduro's comments on the tensions in Catalonia. Maduro accused Spain of holding political prisoners after the arrest of two separatist leaders.

Spain's foreign ministry said Wednesday it had asked the Venezuelan ambassador, Mario Isea, to convey Madrid's "absolute rejection" of Maduro's statements on Catalonia.

On Tuesday Maduro, whose country is embroiled in a long-running political and economic crisis which has included deadly protests and food shortages, said Spain had "no morality" to comment on the situation in Venezuela.

Maduro accused Madrid of persecuting the people of Catalonia and holding political prisoners.

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Catalonia - stay or go now?

His statement followed the Madrid-based National Court's ruling to keep Jordi Cuixart, head of the Catalan National Assembly, and Jordi Sanchez, leader of pro-independence organization Omnium, in jail pending investigation into sedition charges.

They are accused of organizing protests on September 20-21 to impede police who were trying to stop the October 1 independence referendum from going ahead.

The two Spanish-speaking countries have a history of diplomatic spats. At a summit in 2007, then King of Spain Juan Carlos shouted "Why don't you shut up?" to Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president at the time, after Chavez called former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar a fascist.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Rich ancient heritage

Catalonia has been settled by the Phoenicians, the Etruscans and the Greeks, who were mainly in the coastal areas of Rosas and Empuries (above). Then came the Romans, who built more settlements and infrastructure. Catalonia remained a part of the Roman Empire until it was conquered by the Visigoths in the fifth century.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Counties and independence

Catalonia was conquered by Arabs in 711 AD. The Frankish king Charlemagne stopped their advance at Tours on the Loire River and, by 759, the north of Catalonia was once again Christian. In 1137, the counties that made up Catalonia entered an alliance with the Crown of Aragon.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Autonomy and the war of succession

In the 13th century, the institutions of Catalan self-administration were created under the banner of the Generalitat de Catalunya. After the unification of the Crown of Aragon with that of Castile in 1476, Aragon was largely able to keep its autonomic institutions. However, the Catalan revolt — from 1640 to 1659 — saw parts of Catalonia ceded to present-day France.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Remembrance of defeat

After the conquest of Barcelona on September 11, 1714, by the Bourbon King Phillip V, Catalan instuitutions were dissolved and self-administration came to an end. Every year, on September 11, Catalans commemorate the end of their right to autonomy.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Federal ideas in wider republic

After the abdication of King Amadeo I of Spain, the first Spanish Republic was declared in February 1873. It lasted barely a year. The supporters of the Republic were split – one group supporting the idea of a centralized republic, the others wanting a federal system. Pictured here is Francisco Pi i Maragall, a supporter of federalism and one of five presidents of the short-lived republic.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Failed attempt

Catalonia sought to establish a new state within the Spanish republic, but this only served to exacerbate the differences between republicans, ultimately dividing and weakening them. In 1874, the monarchy and the House of Bourbon (led by King Alfonso XII, pictured here) took the helm.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Catalan Republic

Between 1923 — with the support of the monarchy, the army and the church — General Primo de Rivera declared a dictatorship. Catalonia became a center of opposition and resistance. After the end of the dictatorship, the politician Francesc Macia (pictured here) successfully pressed for important rights of autonomy for Catalonia.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

The end of freedom

In the Second Spanish Republic, Catalan lawmakers worked on the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia. This was approved by the Spanish parliament in 1932. Francesc Macia was elected president of the Generalitat of Catalonia by the Catalan parliament. However, the victory of Franco at the end of the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939) put an end to all that.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Loss of liberties

The Franco regime ruled with an iron rod. Political parties were banned and the Catalan language and culture were surpressed.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

New autonomy by statute

After the first parliamentary elections that followed the end of the Franco dictatorship, the Generalitat of Catalonia was provisionally restored. Under the democratic Spanish constitution of 1978, Catalonia was given a new Statute of Autonomy just a year later.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

New and different statute

The new Statute of Autonomy recognized the autonomy of Catalonia and the importance of the Catalan language. In comparison to the 1932 statute, it was enhanced in the fields of culture and education but curtailed when it came to the realm of justice. Pictured here is Jordi Pujol, the long-time head of the government of Catalonia after the dictatorship.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Stronger self-awareness

A desire for independence has grown stronger in recent years. In 2006, Catalonia was given a new statute that broadened the Catalan government's powers. However, it lost these after a complaint by the conservative Popular Party to the Constitutional Court of Spain.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

First referendum

A referendum on independence was already envisaged for November 9, 2014. The first question was "Do you want Catalonia to become a state?" In the case of an affirmative answer, the second question was posed: "Do you want this state to be independent?" However, the Constitutional Court suspended the vote.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Clash of the titans

Since January 2016, Carles Puigdemont has been president of the Catalan government. He proceeded with the separatist course of his predecessor Artur Mas and called the new referendum for October 1, 2017. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dismissed this as unconstitutional.

se/rc (Reuters, EFE)

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