“The only thing I ask of (Catalan) mayors is that they comply with the law, and as such don’t participate in an illegal referendum,” Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy urged this week, calling for a return to “rationality and legality” and promised to block the vote.
However, as Reuters reports, the mayors are not complying…
More than 700 mayors from across Catalonia gathered in Barcelona on Saturday to confirm their support for a planned independence referendum that Madrid has declared illegal.
The mayors met with Catalonia’s regional head Carles Puigdemont in a show of defiance, following Spanish prosecutors warning earlier this week that officials engaging in any preparations for the vote could be charged with civil disobedience, abuse of office and misuse of public funds.
Barcelona mayor Ada Colau, who has reached an agreement with the Catalan regional government to allow voting in the city, criticized Madrid’s response to the crisis in a short speech in the city hall.
“It’s a disgrace that we have a government that is incapable of dialogue and instead dedicates itself to pursuing and intimidating mayors and the media,” Colau said.
So far, 740 of 948 municipal leaders have said they would allow municipal spaces to be used for the referendum, according to the Association for Municipalities for Independence (AMI).
As this was taking place, Reuters reports that Spanish police have raided several print shops and newspaper offices in recent days in a hunt for voting papers, ballot boxes and leaflets to be used for the referendum.
The searches are part of a concerted effort by the government to prevent the ballot from going ahead, amid fears that a vote to break away could trigger a political crisis even if Spain does not recognize the outcome.
“They’ve lost the plot,” said Albert Batet, mayor of the town of Valls and one of those summoned for questioning. “They are persecuting mayors, the press, printers. They are stretching the limits of democracy.”
Catalonia’s president Carles Puigdemont, who faces criminal charges for organizing the referendum, says he has over 6,000 ballot boxes ready to deploy next month, but their whereabouts are a secret.
“Right now, we have no idea where they are,” said Toni Castejon, spokesman for the Catalan police force union.
On Friday, police confiscated 100,000 campaign leaflets in a raid in Catalonia, the Interior Ministry said, without saying where. Catalonia’s top court issued a warning on Friday to seven newspapers, many of them online, not to publish campaign notices for the referendum, a court spokesman said on Saturday.
And furthermore, in its latest desperate move to stop the October 1 independence referendum, MishTalk.com’s Mike Shedlock notes the Spanish Government is Poised to Seize Catalan Finances.
Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro said a mechanism had been approved for the state to take control of the autonomous region’s finances. Madrid is seeking to stop the Catalan government spending public money on its planned independence referendum.
If the deadline is not met, the central government will take over the funding of most essential public services in the region, Mr. Montoro said.
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont launched his campaign for a “Yes” vote on Thursday night in the town of Tarragona, telling a rally at a former bullring: “Vote, and in so doing bring light to darkness that has lasted for too many years.” The crowd shouted back, “Independence”, “We will vote” and “We’re not afraid”, AFP news agency reports.
Public finances are a particularly sore point for Catalans who for years have contributed more to the state budget than they get back in spending on public services.
More than 700 Catalan mayors who have agreed to help stage the referendum now face criminal investigation and police have been ordered by Spanish prosecutors to seize ballot boxes, election flyers and any other item that could be used in the referendum.
The separatists have promised to declare independence within days if, as expected, the Yes vote prevails at the referendum.
Spanish Government Rejects Dialog Request
The Telegraph reports Spain threatens to cut funding for Catalonia over the independence referendum.
The Spanish government on Friday dismissed a letter from Catalan leaders offering talks over their looming independence referendum as “a trap”, and announced it would intervene in Catalonia’s finances to ensure that “not one euro” of public money was used to fund the “illegal” vote.
In the letter, addressed to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and King Felipe VI and carried by a number of media, the leaders said they were seeking talks “to make possible what in a democracy is never a problem nor still less a crime: to listen to the voice of the citizens”.
At a press conference following a cabinet meeting, Mr Méndez de Vigo said the government considered it “a sarcasm” that “at this stage of the game” Catalan leaders were speaking of dialogue when “they have only put on the table a referendum yes or yes.”
The spokesman also took aim at Ada Colau, the Barcelona mayor, over her support of the vote, warning she would be “responsible for her actions” and that she was “either with the law or against it”.
The ministers also delivered an ultimatum for Mr. Puigdemont – sign an agreement that public funds would not be diverted for the referendum within 48 hours or the government would seize control of the part of the Catalan budget destined for services and salaries.
A Metroscopia/El Pais poll published on Sunday found that 56 percent of Catalans think the referendum in its current form is illegal, and 82 percent – including 40 percent of voters for Mr. Rajoy’s PP – blame his government for “strengthening rather than weakening” independence forces.
Juncker in Hot water
EC president Jean-Claude Junker created quite a stir when he said the EU would respect a yes vote. His office now says he was misinterpreted.
LATEST: Second clarification on Catalonia from Juncker’s office: “We are calling Euronews to make sure they correct the misleading tweet…”. pic.twitter.com/xg0VZGpAFR
— The Spain Report (@thespainreport) September 14, 2017
It took several clarifications from Juncker to deny he said what he said.
LATEST: Third clarification from Juncker’s office on Catalonia: “referendum outcome can only be accepted” if vote is constitutional. pic.twitter.com/mgxdJJkf1f
— The Spain Report (@thespainreport) September 14, 2017
Recall that Baseball great Yogi Berra said: “I never said most of the things I said.”
Also recall Jean-Claude Juncker is famous for his statement “When it becomes serious, you have to lie“.