Sun, Oct 01, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Catalonia presses ahead with referendum, defies PM

DIGGING IN:Scores of pro-secession farmers drove tractors into Barcelona to blockade Spanish government offices, while Madrid deployed thousands of police to uphold order


Catalonia heads into a watershed moment in its modern history today and no one really knows how it is going to play out.

Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo on Friday said that there is no way the regional administration will pull off its plans to hold an illegal referendum on independence.

Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull said in Barcelona that almost 7,000 volunteers are ready to open 2,315 polling stations across the region of 7.5 million people.

“Today we’ve defeated an authoritarian state,” Catalan President Carles Puidemont said at the closing rally of the secession campaign on Friday. “Each difficulty has made us stronger.”

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is deploying thousands of police to Catalonia to uphold public order ahead of a vote declared illegal by the Spanish constitutional court.

The region’s bid to break away is the biggest challenge to the political settlement instituted following the death of General Francisco Franco that sought to tie restive regions into Spain’s new democracy.

Earlier on Friday, scores of farmers backing secession drove tractors from the provinces into Barcelona to blockade Spanish government offices.

“All polling stations will be in place — even if someone tries to stop it, citizens will still be able to vote,” Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras said.

After Rajoy met with his Cabinet in Madrid, his government repeated its pledge that the referendum would not happen.

“The government, exercising its constitutional functions, will enforce the law,” Mendez said at a news conference. “No one is above the law and anyone who breaks it should face the consequences.”

Spain’s data protection agency said that polling station workers face fines of as much as 300,000 euros (US$355,000) for accessing and managing data for the electoral registry.

The Spanish aviation authority said it would restrict airspace over Barcelona during the referendum weekend.

A magistrate at Catalonia’s High Court ordered Google to remove the “On Votar 1-Oct” mobile app from Google Play, according to an e-mailed statement from the Catalan supreme court.

In a separate ruling, the magistrate ordered the Catalan technology agency to shut a chain of applications that potentially could be used for the vote.

Spanish Secretary of State for the EU Jorge Toledo said in Tallinn, Estonia, that talks with Catalonia could start once the region is complying with the law.

More than 5.3 million Catalan residents are eligible to take part in the vote, with voting stations open from 9am to 8pm today.

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