Tension Grows in Spain over Secessionist Referendum in Catalonia

Posted September 16, 2017

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was expected in the Catalan capital of Barcelona today, a day after pro-independence leaders launched their campaign for a referendum outlawed by Madrid.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and other supporters of secession gathered at an arena in Tarragona, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Barcelona, to address thousands of people at the kickoff for the two-week campaign.

Juncker was asked if the European Commission would recognise and accept a "Yes" result in the 1 October referendum in Catalonia. But it's obvious that if there were to be a "yes" in favour of Catalan independence - which remains to be seen - then we will respect that choice. "In Catalonia, we are democrats".

The Catalan government has not established a minimum participation for the outcome of the referendum to be valid but a high turnout is key for the legitimacy of the vote.

The extraordinary measures were justified, Mr Montoro said, for budgetary stability in Catalonia and to defend Spain's legal order.

In a boost for the credibility of the referendum, the mayor of Barcelona said earlier on Thursday that the vote would go ahead in the city, having previously expressed concern that civil servants involved may lose their jobs. Colau announced Thursday that voting stations would instead open in facilities owned by the regional government.

More than 700 mayors have pledged to hold the referendum, but they head up mostly small municipalities.

The announcement comes in response to a letter by Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras, informing the Madrid government that Catalonia would no longer be sending weekly expense reports to Madrid as the October 1 referendum nears.

Montoro said he would appear before parliament next week to give the full details of the measures which would also include a demand by Madrid that the central government oversees all short-term debt operations by the regional government. More than 70 per cent, though, wanted a referendum to settle the matter.

"Right now, we have no idea where they are", he said.

A judge shut down the referendum's official website late Wednesday — but minutes later the content had been replicated through servers overseas.

Never mind that Madrid has declared the ballot illegal, Puigdemont was defiant.

"The prime minister can't make something illegal into something legal", said Inigo Mendez de Vigo, the minister of culture.

Catalonian leaders on Friday appealed to the Spanish government for dialogue to avert an impending political crisis over a planned referendum on independence as Madrid took measures to stop state cash being used to fund the vote.

Citizens also are divided over the independence issue.