Wednesday, 23 October, 2019

Catalonia Referendum: Spanish Police Deployed to 'Neutralize' Polling Stations

An armed Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra officer stands guard at Las Ramblas in Barcelona Spain An armed Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra officer stands guard at Las Ramblas in Barcelona Thomson Reuters
Connie Andrews | 28 September, 2017, 01:45

The separatists who now govern the wealthy region in northeastern Spain often make references to the short-lived 1931-1939 republic crushed by General Francisco Franco after a three-year civil war.

"We denounce the attempt by the state to intervene in the police forces of Catalonia", Joaquim Forn, the head of Catalonia's interior department and the civilian head of the Catalan police, said Saturday, reading a statement on regional television.

Spain's former ambassador to the United States was unequivocal in his response to statements from the White House suggesting the USA would recognize a Catalonia independent from Spain.

With five days to go until the October 1 vote, the clash between Catalonia's pro-separatist government and Madrid is increasingly being played out in the arena of logistics and global opinion.

For its part the Catalan regional government said the vote will go ahead and it sent out notifications to Catalans to man polling booths.

However, the Catalan government maintained on Tuesday that the vote would still take place. "All the referendum's logistics have been dismantled", the Spanish government's representative in Catalonia, Enric Millo, told reporters in Barcelona.

"You're talking about staying with a truly great, lovely and very historic country", he said as Rajoy stood at his side.

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"I want this to be resolved as soon as possible and I want us to go into a new stage where the rule of law, dialogue and common sense will prevail", Rajoy said. The court suspended a referendum law that the Catalan parliament passed on September 6 to map out a potential transition to independence.

The Madrid government has in recent weeks taken political and legal measures to prevent the referendum by exerting more control over the use of public funds in Catalonia and arresting regional officials.

Polls indicate that a vote for independence is by no means certain - the region is split equally in favor and against.

Meanwhile, Miquel Sala, mayor of Oliana in northwestern Catalonia, said three Guardia Civil officers had visited on Monday morning.

The euro could face hefty sell-offs in the coming weeks, as long as the possibility of Catalan independence looms.

People who favour independence say Catalonia, which has its own language and culture, is a "nation" - not a "nationality" as recognised by the Spanish constitution - and that as such they should be allowed to have their own state.

Whether that strategy will be seen as a critical step on the path toward independence, or a step back, only time will tell.

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