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French Border Blocked as Catalan Protesters Begin Strike




Pro-independence protesters blocked Spain’s main highway across the French border as a general strike got underway throughout the Catalonia region, channeling outrage at jail sentences handed down to separatist leaders earlier this week.

The AP-7 highway was closed in both directions close to La Jonquera near the French border with protesters leaving nails on the road surface to puncture car tires. The AP-2 highway also was blocked near the city of Lleida with burning tires and mattresses, Spanish government said.

Rail services from Barcelona are so far operating without major delays and the airport is largely functioning normally with 55 canceled flights out of 979 scheduled, the government said. The protest called by two unions provides another lightning rod for anger at Spanish Supreme Court sentences totaling about 100 years for nine separatist leaders who tried to engineer an unconstitutional break from Spain in 2017.

Marches from five Catalan cities are due to converge on the region’s capital of Barcelona on Friday, swelling the number of protesters. Workers at the nearby factory of Volkswagen’s Spanish unit Seat were due to halt production, La Vanguardia newspaper reported.

Violent clashes with police broke out across Catalonia this week as protesters set fire to dumpsters and cars. The unrest in Spain’s northeast is playing out against the backdrop of an election campaign that will call voters to the polling booths on Nov. 10 as political parties joust over how to respond to Catalan separatism.

Here are more details of the disturbances in Catalonia:

  • Marches are scheduled to converge on Barcelona’s city center with a large rally to begin at 5 p.m.
  • Seat halted production at its Martorell plant near Barcelona, saying it was necessary to guarantee the safety of workers
  • A 12-hour partial strike by stevedores at Barcelona’s port began at 8 a.m.
  • The Spanish government reports no significant delays at Barcelona’s train station
  • Of the 55 flights cancellations at Barcelona airport, about 30 were by Vueling, a unit of Internatioanl Consolidated Airlines Group AG
  • Andnd that the border road with Andorra was also blocked
  • Local media reported sporadic clashes overnight between pro-independence and right-wing groups in Barcelona; police made 19 people arrests and five officers were injured across the region.

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