Tens of thousands rally in support of independence vote in Barcelona

Former FC Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola called for international support for the Catalan independence referendum. Photo: AFP
Hum Kc Bahadur
Barcelona, Spain – Tens of thousands of demonstrators including Pep Guardiola, the revered former manager of Barcelona\’s football club, rallied in the city on Sunday to support the Catalonia independence referendum.
Guardiola – who is revered in Catalonia for his footballing achievements – also demanded international help against "the abuses of an authoritarian state" at the rally.
He made a strong plea for voters to take part in an independence referendum scheduled for 1 October. "We will vote, even if the Spanish state doesn\’t want it," Guardiola told the crowd. "There is no other way."
Guardiola has spent most of his career with Barcelona, winning the club\’s first European Cup in 1992, and four La Liga titles.
Local authorities say that about 30,000 people attended but a separatist source put the figure closer to 47,000.
On Friday, Catalonia regional government leader Carles Puigdemont decided to hold the vote later this year, in defiance of the government and contravening a ruling by Spain\’s Constitutional Court. It is not clear if the referendum will go ahead.
In 2014, Catalonia held a non-binding vote in which more than 80 percent of those who cast a ballot chose independence, though just 2.3 million out of 6.3 million eligible voters took part.
Catalonia, a wealthy region of 7.5 million people in northeast Spain, is fiercely proud of its language and customs, and has long demanded greater autonomy from Madrid.
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