By a Newsnet reporter
The representatives of the Spanish central government in the Valencian provinces of Alacant/Alicante and Castelló/Castellón have prohibited the human chains due to be held today (Tuesday 10) and on Wednesday 11 (Catalonia's national day) to link the Valencian region with Catalonia.
On September 11, known as La Diada in Catalan, a human chain calling for independence is planned to run the length of Catalonia from the French frontier to the southern border with Valencia. The event is expected to attract over 1 million participants.
Although outside Catalonia proper, some two thirds of Valencians speak Catalan as their home language. The banned events planned in Valencia were intended to highlight the traditional links of culture and language between Valencia and Catalonia.
Valencia is regarded by Catalans as one of the "Paissos Catalans" (Catalan Countries), and some Catalan nationalists hope that El País Valencià will one day join an independent Catalonia.
Sources from the Spanish Interior Ministry said the decision to ban the events was based on the grounds of road safety and the safety of protesters. The Spanish government claimed that the proposed routes are dangerous, and banned the events after representations were made by the Guardia Civil, overturning a previous decision to authorise the protests.
The Guardia Civil, a paramilitary police force directly controlled by the Interior Ministry in Madrid, claimed that the event would create economic damage, and may provoke a "hostile attitude towards the demonstrators" which might "undermine the public order".
The governing party in the Valencian region is the Partido Popular, which also forms the government in Madrid. A number of prominent voices from the Valencian PP had already condemned the planned demonstrations. Vice-president of the regional government, Jose Cisco, warned that the regional government would take "all necessary measures" against the human chains.
The Secretary General of the PP in Valencia, Serafin Castellano, had also called on all political parties to strongly oppose the celebration of the human chain. Castellano urged respect for what he called "the hallmarks of Valencia", adding, "The citizens of this community are very clear what our language, our flag and our anthem are, "he said, referring to the Spanish flag and anthem, and the so-called "Valencian language".
The "Valencian language" is the official name for the Catalan language in Valencia. After pressures from the PP, the Catalan of Valencia was legally declared to be a separate language from Catalan, although no linguistic experts or philologists agree with this view. The differences between Standard Catalan and Standard Valencian are broadly equivalent to the differences between US and British English.