surinenglish

Puigdemont announces 'contingency plan' to go ahead with independence vote in Catalonia

Pro-independence protesters in Barcelona this week.
Pro-independence protesters in Barcelona this week. / AFP
  • The regional president's defence of the referendum comes after the arrest of fourteen regional government officials and business people for allegedly helping to organise the independence vote and the seizure of voting papers

The president of the Catalonian government, Carles Puigdemont, has encouraged independence supporters to continue to "defend" the referendum planned for 1 October with "civility" and "conviction", despite the Spanish authorities' measures this week to stop the vote.

Speaking on Friday he said that the prime minister Mariano Rajoy had "crossed many red lines" and that there were "contingency plans" to make sure the vote goes ahead.

Puigdemont announces 'contingency plan' to go ahead with independence vote in Catalonia

/ AFP

On Wednesday, following court orders, Guardia Civil officers seized almost ten million voting slips for the planned 1 October vote stored at a printers outside Barcelona in what independence referendum organisers said was a blow for their hopes of staging the vote. The ballot boxes however still haven’t been found by investigators.

Earlier on Wednesday a Barcelona judge ordered Guardia Civil officers to also carry out 41 searches and arrest several regional government chiefs and business people suspected of helping plans for the referendum. The police intervention sparked an immediate wave of demonstrations across the Catalonian capital that lasted into early Friday morning.

In all, fourteen people were detained in police raids, including the general secretary of the Catalonian finance and economy ministry, other holders of government posts and technology specialists working for the government.

Some were later released after questioning and many have appealed their arrest.

Protesters in favour of the banned vote on independence going ahead gathered outside the buildings being searched. The Guardia Civil carried on in the offices of the regional economy ministry through the night and into Thursday morning, with demonstrators barring their exit. Some of the police vehicles parked outside were heavy damaged by vandalism.

‘Take your dirty hands off Catalonia’

Speaking in the Spanish parliament chamber on Wednesday, pro-independence MP from Catalonia’s ERC party, Gabriel Rufián accused Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of organising the raids for political motives. “We’ve woken up with the Guardia Civil outside our friends’ homes...I insist that you take your dirty hands off Catalonian institutions,” he said.

Carles Puigdemont.

Carles Puigdemont. / REUTERS

In reply Rajoy said in front of MPs that the police action was on the instructions of a judge and had nothing to do with the national government. “Iam not going to explain what Rule of Law means;this is an operation carried out on a judge’s instructions.”

Catalonian pro-independence MPs of all parties then walked out of the debating chamber.

Other national politicians reacted to the news.

Ciudadanos’ Albert Rivera said that he supported Rajoy’s stance while the PSOESocialist party explained that it also supported Madrid’s upholding of the Spanish constitution by stopping the regional referendum, but called on both the national and regional governments to start dialogue on a long-term solution to their differences.

Meanwhile left-wing Podemos leader, Pablo Iglesias said he was against the arrests and lamented that, in his view, the national government appeared to be taking “political prisoners”.

The Catalonian president, Carles Puigdemont, appearing with his cabinet, was defiant, accusing Madrid of totalitarian and antidemocratic behaviour. “On 1 October we’ll leave home, pick up a voting paper and we’ll use it,” he said.

'No more than a pipe dream’

After a day of high drama in Catalonia on Wednesday, Mariano Rajoy appeared in the evening live from his official residence to say:“They know that they cannot hold this referendum now; it was never legal or legitimate, and now it is no more than a pipe dream.”

The vote and the preparations for it have been banned by Spanish courts for being against the country’s constitution. Last week over 700 pro-independence local mayors were placed under investigation for allegedly using council resources to help arrange the vote.