The Catalan premier, Carles Puigdemont, gave a special news conference on Wednesday claiming that the morning raids and arrests in Barcelona represent “a de facto suspension of Catalonia’s self-government and a de facto application of a state of exception.”
“The (Spanish) government has crossed the red line separating it from authoritarian regimes and become an object of shame,” said Puigdemont, of the pro-independence coalition Junts pel Si (Together for Yes).
On Wednesday morning, the Civil Guard searched 41 locations – including the seat of the Catalan government and several leading departments – and made 14 arrests in connection with the independence referendum that Catalan authorities are planning for October 1 in violation of Spanish legislation and a Constitutional court suspension.
Officers also confiscated around nine million ballot papers meant to be used in a vote that separatists are framing as a legitimate expression of Catalonia’s right to decide, while the central government notes that a unilateral referendum is legally unconstitutional and cannot be held under the terms established by its organizers.
Madrid has vowed to stop the vote using all legal means at its disposal. Voting material has been confiscated and public officials cautioned that cooperating with the illegal referendum in any way could constitute a crime.
But surrounded by his cabinet officials, the Catalan leader on Wednesday warned Spanish authorities that “we will not back down because we don’t have the right to do so, because it is the mandate that we received from citizens.”
20th-century nationalism led the world to two apocalyptic wars and sunk Europe into barbarity
University professor manifesto
Puigdemont, whose governing coalition earned 48% of the vote in the 2015 election and holds a slim majority in the regional parliament, insists that his administration has a duty to hold the ballot and will not back down from this pledge, no matter what the response from Madrid.
On Wednesday, he called on all Catalans to go vote on October 1 as a “democratic response” against the “authoritarianism” of the Spanish state.
“On October 1 we will walk out of our homes, we will have a ballot paper in our hands and we will use it,” he promised.
The morning raids against prominent symbols of Catalan self-rule quickly drew crowds of protesters who chanted “We will vote” and “Independence.” Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau stated that the arrests “are an attack against Catalonia’s autonomy.”
There was also immediate political reaction to the raids, which were ordered by a Barcelona judge investigating crimes of disobedience, embezzlement of public funds and deliberate, unlawful decision-making by public officials.
Pablo Iglesias, leader of the leftist Podemos party, called the detainees “political prisoners.” The Catalan deputy premier, Oriol Junqueras of the separatist Catalan Republican Left (ERC), tweeted that “they are attacking the institutions of this country, and therefore attacking its citizens. We will not allow it!”
Anna Gabriel, speaker for the small far-left party CUP, whose support is pivotal to Puigdemont, admitted that the logistics of the vote were becoming more difficult, but that there would be a vote regardless.
“To not have ballot boxes on October 1 is not an option; if we don’t hold it, it will mean that the coup d’état has won,” she said.
Via a written statement, soccer club FC Barcelona has condemned “any action that violates democracy, freedom of expression and the right to decide,” a declaration that it justified with its loyalty “to its historic commitment to the defense of the country.” The Catalan club said it was making the statement in the wake of “the incidents that have taken place in recent days,” and added that it condemned “any action that could impede the full exercising of these rights.”
After the Civil Guard launched a major operation on Wednesday given the continuing preparations for an illegal referendum planned for October 1 on independence for the Catalonia region, which saw a total of 14 arrests and 22 searches, the soccer club expressed its support for “all people, entities and institutions that are working to guarantee these rights.” The statement continued: “FC Barcelona, with the utmost respect for the plurality of its membership base, will continue to support the will of the majority of the people of Catalonia, expressed always in a civic, peaceful and exemplary manner,” the text read.
But the term “coup” is also being used by detractors of the referendum. Josep Borrell, a former Socialist minister and president of the European Parliament between 2004 and 2007, said that the Catalan referendum “is a coup without tanks, a coup that is taking down a legitimate order in order to impose another order lacking any minimal guarantees.”
Borrell said that the Catalan government is leading “a neo-totalitarian regime” that has won the international public opinion battle due to the silence of non-nationalist Catalans and the laissez-faire attitude displayed by the Mariano Rajoy administration.
This politician warned of “an institutional crisis of giant proportions, which could become a European crisis,” and did not rule out impending episodes of violence.
Police on alert
Meanwhile, national police and Civil Guard officers stationed in Catalonia have had all leave and vacation days suspended until October 5, four days after the referendum date. The orders come from the Interior Minister with a view to “guaranteeing compliance with the Constitutional Court’s decision to suspend the illegal referendum of October 1 in Catalonia.”
“The separatists have had the ability to tell half-truths and outright lies for 25 years,” said Borrell. “Germany, France and the US prohibit self-determination in their own constitutions. In Spain at least you can reform the Constitution: those countries prohibit reviewing the indivisibility of their States. But (separatists) have managed to make Spain synonymous with Francoism, and made Spanish democracy seem less solid than others.”
In a similar vein, over 230 university professors across Spain have signed a manifesto accusing secessionists of “dividing Catalan society” and “putting social harmony and civil peace at risk.” The document’s first signatory is Fernando Savater, a leading thinker and writer from the Basque Country.
The manifesto underscores that “20th-century nationalisms led the world to two apocalyptic wars and sunk Europe into barbarity.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said in an interview with Bloomberg that Catalan separatists are displaying “a Nazi attitude.”
“They are printing posters with the faces of the mayors who refuse to participate in this fraud (the referendum) and asking people to harass them,” he said. Prosecutors are investigating cases of threats issued against local officials who have refused to help organize the vote.
English version by Susana Urra.