Barcelona, Spain – The European Union will not intervene over Catalan independence, citing respect for the Spanish Constitution.
The Spanish government maintains that the referendum for the state’s independence is illegal, and cracked down on Wednesday, arresting 14 senior officials, seizing ballots and raiding homes belonging to Catalan advocates on suspicion of organizing the vote. Reuters reports that state police also raided regional government offices, printers, newspapers and delivery companies, searching for campaign materials on Wednesday.
The vote will take place on the first of October. 7.5 million people call Catalonia home, a region with its own language and culture that accounts for about 20 percent of Spain’s economic output. According to a poll commissioned by the Catalonian government’s Centre for Opinion Studies (Centre d’Estudis d’Opinió; CEO) in July, about 49.4 percent of Catalans are against independence, with 41.1 percent are in favor.
Carles Puigdemont, the head of Catalonia’s government, called the raids a “coordinated police assault”, and said the suspending of the local government was a “de facto state of emergency” in Catalonia.
— Ramon Tremosa (@ramontremosa) September 21, 2017
Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, also attacked the crackdown on Twitter, describing it as a “democratic scandal”. The Spanish government has threatened to arrest any mayor that enables the vote.
“We must respect the constitutional order and the legal framework of each member state,” said a spokesperson for the European Commission, explaining the rationale for non-intervention.
Catalan National Assembly, the principle non-government advocacy organization pushing for independence, has set up protests surrounding the courthouse in Barcelona where some of the officials were brought after being arrested by the Guardia Civil police. The Guardia Civil are Spain’s federal police force.
“Don’t go ahead. Go back to the law and democracy. This referendum is a chimera,” said Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in a televised statement. “Stop this escalation of radicalism and disobedience once and for all.”
Spanish police have been searching for ballot boxes and have seized 45,000 informational documents that would have been distributed to polling station staff.
Spanish media have said that between 3,000 and 4,000 additional police have been sent to Catalonia to prevent the referendum. According to local reporting, the central government aims to amass 16,000 police by October 1st. The reinforcements are buttressing the 5,000 police already in the region.
“The state is laying the groundwork to take over the Mossos d‘Esquadra. It’s a clear attempt to discredit it,” said Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn on Twitter. The Mossos d’Esquadra are a regional police force. He also stated that “we [the Catalonian regional government] will not accept it.”
Questions of who the police are loyal to loom large in the consciousness of Catalonians. In 1937, a year into the Spanish Civil war, when Catalonia was a part of a fight against a military coup, police forces sided against the “trotskyist” faction within the republican government and purged them in a “civil war within a civil war.” One target of the purge was famed writer George Orwell, who was in Spain as a military volunteer.
Upon the defeat of the Republican forces the coup leader, Francisco Franco, used his powers as dictator to dissolve the Mossos d’Esquadra. After Franco passed away in 1975, the country re-organized itself around the new Constitution. The Constitution created 17 “Autonomous Communities” and two autonomous cities. The autonomous communities Basque Country, Catalonia, and Navarre have their own police forces.
LIMA CHARLIE NEWS, with Diego Lynch
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