People rest next to a giant Estelada (Catalan separatist flag) inside the University of Barcelona's historic building a day before the banned October 1 independence referendum in Barcelona, Spain, September 30, 2017. (REUTERS/Enrique Calvo)
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Frustration and anxiety mounted across Spain on Saturday in the face of Catalonia's determination to defy Madrid and hold a banned independence referendum for the wealthy northeastern region.In the run-up to Sunday's vote, which the courts have ruled unconstitutional, more red and yellow Spanish flags have appeared on balconies in Madrid, Seville and other cities in support of national unity.The apprehension is especially strong in Catalonia's neighbouring regions of Aragon to the west and Valencia to the south.Bordered by the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean, Catalonia -- which is roughly the size of Belgium -- accounts for 16 percent of Spain's population and 19 percent of its economic output.The economic consequences of secession are also a worry in the eastern region of Extremadura, one of Spain's poorest regions, which is known for the cherries of its Jerte Valley region.Keeping Spain united is also crucial for Rodrigo Marrero, a lawyer from Spain's Canary Islands who works in Madrid.The situation is seen differently in Spain's northern Basque Country, which already enjoys a degree of autonomy far beyond Catalonia's.
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