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Catalonia referendum: Spanish police target Catalan government

Catalonia referendum: Spanish police target Catalan government

The moves to disrupt the deployment comes amid seething anger in Catalonia over the arrests of 14 people, majority high ranking Catalan officials, during preparations for a referendum that has been declared illegal by Spain's constitutional court.

Authorities seized almost 10 million ballots destined for the vote, seriously damaging separatist plans for a referendum with a semblance of legitimacy, even if it was never going to be recognised by Madrid or overseas. 'It's evident that we won't be able to vote like we have done in the past, ' Junqueras told broadcaster TV3.

"Today marks a new level of escalation in the conflict", Angel Talavera, an economist at Oxford Economics in London, said Wednesday.

Earlier this week, following the arrest of the politicians, left-wing trade union CGT called for strikes the day after it was supposed to hold the referendum - on October 1.

"We will do it because we have contingency plans in place to ensure it happens, but above all because it has the support of the huge majority of the population who are sick of the arrogance and abuse of the People's Party (PP) government", he said in a televised statement.

In an open letter published in Britain's Guardian newspaper, Puigdemont called on the worldwide community "to stand with Catalonia in its defense of democracy and true European values".

A pro-independence civic group in Catalonia is calling on residents to begin a long-term street protest against Spanish authorities' surprise crackdown on the region's plans to hold a secession referendum.

The Catalonia region's president, Carles Puigdemont, insisted in a video message late Thursday that the referendum would go ahead despite the legal obstacles and police action.

The confiscation of millions of ballot papers on Wednesday delivered an added blow to referendum plans.

A court statement Thursday said the fines would start Saturday unless the members demonstrate they comply with its recent rulings that suspended laws covering their appointment, the authorization for the referendum and the transitional period should Catalonia secede from Spain. They consider that voting for Catalonia's separation would be completely illegal because it would act against the Spanish constitution.

And Inigo Mendez de Vigo, a spokesman for the Spanish government, downplayed the importance of the protests. Separatists have long called for complete independence, with the campaign picking up steam over the past few years.

And critics in both camps say the central government has not made any attempt to win over hearts and minds.

European Union officials have remained tight-lipped on the issue regarding it as an internal matter for Spain.

All these are making it harder and harder for Catalonia's separatist executive to stage the vote.

The Madrid government is facing one of Spain's worst political crisis since the end of Francisco Franco's dictatorship.

"It would have been best to have a referendum agreed by the government", he added, noting that the Catalan executive was also at fault as it had been "unable to negotiate".

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