The president of Spain's Catalonia region signs a decree calling an independence referendum on Nov. 9, putting him on a collision course with the central government which says such a vote is illegal. Mana Rabiee reports.
It was a solemn enough ceremony in Spain. Catalonia's regional President, Artur Mas, signs a decree calling for an independence referendum on November 9. It's something the region's independence movement has wanted for a long, long time, simmering especially over the last decade. (SOUNDBITE) (Catalan) ARTUR MAS, PRESIDENT OF REGION OF CATALONIA, WALKING: "It has taken great mobilizations by our citizens and a lot of months of work, to get to this day, a day that we will remember forever." Outside, hundreds of supporters of Catalan independence cheer the move. This wealthy north-eastern region accounts for a fifth of Spain's economy. It has its own language, a distinct culture. And polls show some 80 percent of Catalans want to at least vote on the issue. (SOUNDBITE) (Catalan) SEPARATIST JORDI IBARS, SAYING: "Everything is manipulated. Manipulated and organized by the government in Madrid. What can we expect?" But the move pits President Mas on a collision course with the central government which says the vote is simply illegal. In Madrid, reaction to news of the decree… (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) MADRID RESIDENT, MARIA, SAYING: "I don't support it. I think a referendum should be something agreed by more people, not only him." (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) MADRID RESIDENT, MARIA MERCEDES TORRES, SAYING: "They want to separate? Go ahead and separate. Go to hell, but let the rest of us live alone." Madrid has vowed to block the referendum. The objective will go to the Constitutional Court, which could suspend the vote until a final ruling on its legality..., something that could take years.