Catalans hit streets for independence
BARCELONASpain’s central government braced for a second day of protests in Barcelona yesterday as separatists called for “permanent mobilization” after Madrid dealt yet another blow to preparations for an outlawed referendum on independence.
Influential separatist citizens’ organizations urged those who want the vote to take place on October 1, despite Madrid’s ban, to return to the streets after day-long demonstrations that lasted well into the night.
Anger over the detention of 14 regional government officials on Sept. 20 was further compounded by an announcement that police had seized “close to 10 million ballot papers” destined for a vote deemed illegal by Madrid and the courts.
Thousands took to the streets of Barcelona, prompting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to call on Catalonia’s separatist leaders to “stop this escalation of radicalism and disobedience once and for all.”
“There is still time to avoid bigger problems,” he said in a televised statement late on Sept. 20 as protesters gathered in front of the regional vice-presidency in Barcelona, threatening to “spend the night here”.
They blocked the departure of officers from the Guardia Civil police force who had been conducting searches in the building. The crisis in Catalonia has deepened almost daily over the past weeks as central authorities pull out the stops to prevent the referendum in a region sharply divided over independence.
Police have seized over 45,000 notifications destined for Catalans selected to staff polling stations, threatened to arrest mayors who facilitate the vote if they do not comply with a criminal probe and tightened control over the region’s finances.
This and other measures are making it harder and harder for Catalonia’s executive to stage the referendum, and Spain’s leading El Pais and El Mundo dailies said Madrid had dealt a major blow to the organisation of the vote.
Among those arrested on Sept. 20 was Josep Maria Jove, secretary general of economic affairs and Catalonia’s deputy vice president, a regional government spokesman said.
The others work in various Catalan government departments and are suspects in a probe into “disobedience, misfeasance and embezzlement”, the High Court in Catalonia said.
Launched in February, the probe centers around allegations that confidential data was stolen to provide separatists with information on Catalan taxpayers, a judicial source who refused to be named said.