Spain sends more police to Catalonia to block referendum


The mounting political crisis in Spain over Catalonia's campaign for independence intensified on Saturday with a new row over the control of the local police force as the regional government pressed ahead with plans to hold an illegal vote next weekend.

Spanish officials had accused the Mossos (troopers) of not doing enough to disrupt preparations for the October 1 vote.

An Interior Ministry statement said the extra police would provide backing for the Catalan regional police, who are also under orders to prevent the staging of the referendum.

The Spanish government has increased its suppression of the independence vote with the arrests of a dozen regional officials Wednesday and the seizure of 10 million ballot papers.

Carles Puigdemont has also claimed the Spanish state had implemented a "de facto suspension of Catalonia's self-governance" by, for instance, tightening control over Catalan finances.

Yesterday, Spain's Civil Guard, a national police force, seized over 45,000 envelopes packed in cardboard boxes that the Catalan government was ready to send to notify people around the region about the referendum. "We will be here, peacefully but present, until all of the arrested walk out free", Assembly president Jordi Sanchez said. Moreover, Spain has been struggling to contain separatist sentiment in other parts of the country too, and Catalonia's potential secession could trigger a chain reaction from other regions to go their own way as well, especially if they're convinced that they could do better on their own than remaining within the floundering state.

However, Catalonia's Interior Minister, Joaquim Forn, condemned the move as an attempt by the federal forces to hijack the local police force.

At the demonstration outside the Catalan regional ministry of economy, protester Charo Rovira said she felt sad at the turn of events.

Spanish media quoted government sources as saying the measure did not mean withdrawing any powers from the Mossos formally, but rather requiring them to submit to a joint coordination operation to stop the Catalan referendum taking place on October 1.

A demonstrator holds up a banner reading "We vote to be free" as she tries with others to stop the auto carrying Xavier Puig, a senior official of the Catalan government, after he was arrested by Guardia Civil officers in Barcelona, Sept. 20.

The Spanish government is putting pressure on Catalonia by dispatching police forces and repressing independence seekers and the heavy-handed crackdown is fueling the tensions in the region, he added.