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Spanish Government Arrests Catalan Senior Officials, Creating ‘State of Emergency’
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Summary: The Catalonia area is in an uproar after the Spanish government swooped in, arresting several top officials to prevent an independence referendum from being held.

The Catalan president is calling foul after the Spanish government arrested 14 senior officials during a raid of the Catalan government offices. Carles Puigdemont, head of Catalonia’s pro-sovereignty government, accuses the Spanish government of trying to prevent a vote on independence, suspending their autonomy. Spain became a democratic country forty years ago.


On Wednesday, Spanish Guardia Civil officers raided a number regional government offices, arresting 14 senior officials. Puigdemont said the raids were a ”co-ordinated police assault” that clearly show Madrid “has de facto suspended self-government and applied a de facto state of emergency” in Catalonia.

He vows that the voting will still happen. “We reaffirm our peaceful response. The Spanish government has crossed a red line and become a democratic disgrace.” He added in a post on Twitter, “We will not accept a return to the darkest times. The government is in favour of liberty and democracy.”

Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau tweeted that the raids were a “democratic scandal” and the people of Catalonia would defend their rights. Tension between Barcelona and Madrid has been growing over the past days as the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his government look for ways to prevent the vote from happening, as he promised.

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The country’s interior ministry announced all leave for Guardia Civil and national police officers responsible for preventing the referendum was canceled. All affected officers would have to be available between September 20 and October 5, perhaps longer.

Officers seized referendum documents from the offices of a private delivery firm in Terrassa, a Catalan city. There they took over 1.5 million leaflets and posters. They claim a judge authorized the search of over 42 premises, including six regional government offices. The Catalan high court says 20 people were being investigated for disobedience, embezzlement, and abuse of power related to the referendum. Those reported to have been arrested include secretary general of economic affairs and aide to the Catalan vice-president Josep Maria Jove and secretary of taxation Lluis Salvado.

The Spanish interior ministry claims the police confiscated roughly 20 million ballot papers as well as polling stations signs and documents for electoral officers.

When news of the events spread, people started gathering outside the finance ministry in Barcelona. The crowd eventually grew to over 5,000 angry but peaceful people. The crowd, blocking Gran Via, broke out into the Catalan national anthem while waving signs reading “We are voting to be free.” Their chants turned from “No tinc por” (I’m not afraid) to “Occupation forces out!” Smaller protests occurred in other parts of the city. Catalan MP Joan Tarda begged the crowd outside the finance ministry to stay calm. He said, “They’re trying to derail us. Our strength lies in being resolute, but in a civilized and peaceful manner.”

The Mossos d’Esquadra is the primary police presence in Catalonia. The Guardia Civil is associated by the public with the fascist dictatorship, thus they are rarely seen in the region. The Spanish government contends that a Catalan independence is illegal because their 1978 constitution has no provision for a vote on self-determination. Puigdemont said, “Logically, the state has to react. There is no democratic state in the world that would accept what these people are trying to do. They’ve been warned and they know the referendum can’t take place.”

Do you think the government went too far by raiding offices and arresting political officials? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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