Spain Arrests 12 Officials Ahead of Catalan Independence Referendum

Catalonia, Catalan, Catalan independence, Catalan referendum, Spain, Guardia Civil
A pro-Catalan independence protest in Barcelona. Image: SBA73, Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Spain’s Guardia Civil military police force on Wednesday raided government ministries and detained 12 officials involved in organizing the Catalan independence referendum. Among those detained is Josep Maria Jove, the economic affairs secretary and aide to the vice president of the Catalonia region.

The central government in Madrid maintains that the October 1 referendum is illegal under the Spanish constitution, and has moved to block the vote. The Guardia Civil have also recently seized over 1 million referendum pamphlets, posters and other documents.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Wednesday that the government was forced to act to prevent “an attempt to eliminate the constitution and the autonomous statute of Catalonia … there is no independent state in the world that would accept what these people are trying to do.”

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont accused the government of imposing a state of emergency on the autonomous region. BBC reported that Spain’s finance ministry is also moving to take control over Catalonia’s public finances.

Last week, the Spanish prosecutor summoned 712 mayors who have agreed to provide municipal facilities for the referendum. Criminal charges are being prepared against other referendum leaders.

Catalan independence referendum

Catalonia, located in north-east Spain, has a high degree of autonomy already. While it shares jurisdiction with Madrid in judicial and other matters, the Catalan parliament has gained greater autonomy in other areas, including commerce, since the late 1970s.

The Junts pel Si (“Together for Yes”) separtist party and the pro-independence Candidatura d’Unilat Popular (Popular Unity Candidacy) party coalition has held a majority in the regional parliament since 2015. If voters approve the independence bid next month, the Catalan government would be bound to declare independence within 48 hours.