“The Spanish state has effectively suspended our self-government and applied a de facto state of emergency.” – Carlos Puigdemont, President of the Generalitat of Catalonia.

  • Catalan independence vote, ruled illegal by Spanish courts, threatens to plunge the country into a political and constitutional crisis if it goes ahead.
  • Spanish Civil Guard police forces searched 22 properties and offices linked to Catalonia’s regional administration in Barcelona and arrested an official in charge of the region’s economy, Josep Maria Jové,
  • Guardia Civil officers dispatched to Catalonia draped in Spanish flags and cheered on with cries of “Go for them!” as polls suggest that over 70% of Catalonia’s 7.5 million citizens are in favour of holding a referendum, though most are divided on the issue of independence.

“It won’t happen,” insists Spain’s prime minister as news broke that police will be deployed at polling stations to prevent people from voting in the Catalan independence referendum on October 1st, the Spanish government has confirmed.

Despite the Catalonia regional government insisting the unilateral poll will go ahead on Sunday the Spanish government has vowed to stop the vote, describing it as a clear violation of the constitution.

Catalonia’s regional president, Carles Puigdemont, was quick to accuse the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, of acting “beyond the limits of a respectable democracy” in his efforts to prevent the referendum despite Spain’s constitutional court suspending the referendum while it rules on the legality of the vote.

The Fight For and Against Catalan Independence

“Today we can affirm that there will be no effective referendum in Catalonia,” the Spanish government’s representative in Catalonia, Enric Millo, told reporters this Tuesday, adding, “all the referendum’s logistics have been dismantled.”

Against a background of raids and a heavy police presence, tensions in Catalonia and its capital Barcelona have spiraled as the sensitive issue of independence for the region threatens to plunge Spain into a democratic crisis unseen since the years of General Franco

Huge groups of demonstrators took to the streets of Barcelona on Wednesday after news broke that Spanish police had arrested 14 people last week in a series of 41 police raids on Catalan government departments, believed to be a bid to stop the region’s controversial referendum on October 1st.

Police searched the Catalan government’s economy, labour and foreign and social affairs departments, including offices linked to the Presidency and confiscated the government’s entire consignment of 9.6 million referendum ballot papers.

“Out, Forces of Occupation!”

Tensions have flared between supporters of the referendum, set for October 1, and the police that have been ordered to prevent a vote that has been legally suspended by Spanish courts.

Protesters assembled across Catalonia and bore placards screaming “Fascists!” and “Out, forces of occupation!” as members of the Civil Guard military police showed their force in full riot gear to contain the peaceful demonstrators.

Catalan president Carlos Puigdemon hit back at the the Spanish state  and accused it of “authoritarian” behaviour and resorting to suspending Catalonia’s autonomy by stealth and deception rather than democratic means.

“The Spanish state has effectively suspended our self-government and applied a de facto state of emergency,” he said, after a crisis meeting.

He also drew a parallel between the raids and the abuses of the Franco regime, tweeting “We will not accept a return to the darkest times. The government is in favour of liberty and democracy.”

 

Back to the “Bad Old Days” for Spain?

In comparing the Spanish government’s behaviour to the hard-line tactics of the Franco era, many say the heavy handed tactics are only serving to drive more Catalans towards independence.

Following his rise to power in 1939, military dictator Franco imposed policies believed to be responsible for the repression and deaths of as many as 400,000 political opponents and dissenters through forced labor and executions in concentration camps. In outlawing the rest of the political parties Spain became a one-party state until his death in 1975.

 

Catalan Independence and Democratic Crisis

In the event of a vote, from 2 October there could be a difficult situation in which two distinct legal realities would have to coexist in Catalonia.

In this eventuality Spain would have to declare the Catalan government defunct while lawmakers prepare for Catalan parliament in Barcelona’s vote for secession.

Regardless of the referendum, Spain’s government-appointed chief public prosecutor, José Manuel Maza, has suggested that the Catalan leader Mr Puigdemont could be arrested and charged with civil disobedience, abuse of office and misuse of public funds.

Speaking to torn loyalties of the regional police Mossos d’Esquadra, suggestions from the Catalan interior minster that Catalonia’s regional police may not enforce the orders of the Spanish courts and prevent voting in Sunday’s independence referendum if it means inflaming local tensions,with Joaquim Forn, a member of Catalonia’s pro-independence regional government,calling for “citizen coexistence” as a higher priority than obeying the courts.

As for now,both sides of the independence debate will be preparing for Sunday with the knowledge that either outcome will certainly not dull the fire around calls for independence in Catalonia.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia