Participants in the human chain linking the Basque town of
Durango with the Navarran capital of Pamplona join hands at
the mountain pass of Kanpazar. REUTERS/Vincent West
Tens of thousands of Basques have held hands to form a
123km chain stretching across the northern Spanish region
calling for the right to hold a vote on independence.
Organising group "It's in Our Hands" estimated some 100,000
people joined the chain, which echoed a similar demonstration
on Sept. 11 last year in Catalonia, another Spanish region
with a large independence movement.
Demonstrators draped in red-white-and-green Basque flags
raised their linked hands as helicopters flew over the line
stretching from the city of Durango to Pamplona some 76 miles
away, which is not in Basque Country but is in the
neighbouring Navarra region considered part of Basque
cultural and linguistic territory.
A long economic crisis and political corruption scandals have
triggered broad public disenchantment with key institutions
that anchor Spain's democracy, formed in the 1970s after a
Support for the once-dominant Socialists and centre-right
People's Party has fallen dramatically, independence
movements are surging in Catalonia and the Basque Country,
and on Saturday thousands marched in Madrid and other cities
calling for the abolition of the monarchy that was reinstated
The Basque Country - with its own language and culture - has
traditionally sought greater self-rule from Spain.
In recent years Basque leaders negotiated more tax
independence from Spain while separatist demonstrations have
been muted. Violent separatist group ETA, weakened by arrests
and dwindling popular support, declared an end to its armed
struggle in 2011.
But a democratic independence movement has gained force in
recent months, partly inspired by massive demonstrations in
Catalonia. Basque lawmakers on May 29 adopted a symbolic
declaration of self-determination, stepping up a push for
Catalan President Artur Mas told Reuters last week he was
forging ahead with plans for a Nov. 9 independence vote that
the central government vows to block on constitutional