Spanish police arrest 12 in move against Catalan referendum

Lynette Rowe
September 21, 2017

The FC Barcelona soccer club said in a statement: "FC Barcelona, in remaining faithful to its historic commitment to the defence of the nation, to democracy, to freedom of speech, and to self-determination, condemns any act that may impede the free exercise of these rights".

Madrid did not recognize that vote, calling it illegal - and considers the upcoming referendum, slated for October 1, to be equally unconstitutional.

Spanish police detained 13 Catalan government officials yesterday as they crack down on preparations for an independence referendum in the region which Madrid says is illegal, sparking angry protests in Barcelona.

The referendum has not had an impact on the economy because financial markets do not think Catalan independence is a "minimally viable and acceptable scenario", the economy minister said.

Several hundred people are protesting the arrests and shouting pro-independence slogans in different parts of Barcelona and other Catalan towns.

The president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, accused the government of Mariano Rajoy of suspending de facto the autonomic regime and applying a state of exception in that community.

A crowd of protesters gathers outside the Catalan region's economy ministry after junior economy minister Josep Maria Jove was arrested in Barcelona, Spain, September 20, 2017.

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Polls show that while Catalans are sharply divided on whether they want independence or not, a large majority would like to vote to settle the matter.

Mr Rajoy said the regional government had been warned that they were destroying Spain's national sovereignty, "There's no democratic state in the world that would accept what these people are planning", he said. Jordi Sanchez, president of the pro-independence ANC (Catalan National Assembly) also tweeted that police were entering the Economy ministry and vice-presidency.

The Catalan government estimates it pays 16 billion euros ($19 billion) more to Madrid than it gets back, or about 8.0 percent of it the region's GDP.

Puigdemont says the police operations are unlawful and are aimed at preventing Catalans from voting on October 1.

Catalonia's pro-separatist government challenged the measure in Spain's Supreme Court but a court spokeswoman told AFP it was "in force" and would not be suspended while judges rule on its legality.

Quebec's opposition is demanding the government publicly denounce the intensifying crackdown in Spain against the Catalan independence movement. It gave no details on the number of people involved. The finance ministry took over the direct payment of basic services such as education, health and civil servants' salaries last week.

The Civil Guard conducted searches of the Catalonian government buildings.

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