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Spain: Basques form human chain to demand independence vote

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Spain: Basques form human chain to demand independence vote
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Tens of thousands of people in Spain’s northern Basque region have formed a human chain, demanding the right to hold a vote on self-determination.

Some 123 kilometres long, it echoes a similar demonstration last September in Catalonia, another Spanish region with a large independence movement.

Sunday’s chain stretched from the city of Durango to Pamplona, which, though in the neighbouring Navarra region, is considered part of Basque cultural and linguistic territory.

“I want to congratulate all the participants, especially all the people who have worked hard this year to create this – helping us to create a free Basque Country,” said Zerai Nikolas, spokesperson for the human chain initiative.

The Basque Country – with its own language and culture – has traditionally sought greater self-rule from Spain.

Nationalist political parties are leading the drive for independence. The violent, Basque separatist group ETA, weakened by arrests and dwindling popular support,declared an end to its armed campaign in 2011.

A long economic crisis and political corruption scandals have triggered broad public disenchantment with key institutions that anchor Spain’s democracy.

Catalonia is pressing ahead with plans for a referendum on independence in November, a vote the central government is vowing to block on constitutional grounds.