Spanish police arrest Catalan official in referendum row

The mayor of Mollerussa Marc Solsona leaves legal headquarters in Catalonia

Spanish national police have stormed ministries and buildings belonging to Catalonia's regional government, according to a Catalan government spokesman. Spain's government has been backed by the Constitutional Court, which has suspended the referendum law passed by the Catalan parliament.

Wednesday's episode is the latest development in the Spanish government's ongoing efforts to stop Catalonia's upcoming vote.

Spain's central government has banned the Catalan independence vote, but it appears the region will defy Madrid and go ahead with the ballot, planned for October 1.

Addressing Catalan officials, the prime minister said: "If you care about the tranquility of most Catalans, give up this escalation of radicalism and disobedience".

The government has also opened a legal investigation into over 700 Catalan local mayors, who have said they will allow the referendum to continue in their municipalities.

Polls show that while Catalans are sharply divided on whether they want independence or not, a large majority would like to vote to settle the matter.

Yesterday, Spain's Civil Guard, a national police force, seized over 45,000 envelopes packed in cardboard boxes that the Catalan government was ready to send to notify people around the region about the referendum. Madrid is increasing legal, economic and political pressure over Catalan authorities in an effort to disrupt the organization of an independence referendum on October 1.


Catalonia's pro-separatist president Carles Puigdemont accused the Spanish government of imposing a "de facto state of emergency" in the region, with a series of measures to prevent what Madrid sees as an illegal independence referendum taking place. Catalan authorities vowed to hold the referendum despite the court's ruling. The finance ministry took over the direct payment of basic services such as education, health and civil servants' salaries last week.

Catalonia represents a fifth of Spain's 1.1-trillion-euro economy.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the regional government offices in the centre of Barcelona's tourist district following the arrests.

But the budget ministry spokeswoman warned that if the regional government refused to provide the information, that would mean that the Catalan government "is not cooperating, that they don't want the salaries of public workers to be paid" and that Madrid would "turn off the tap" of financing for the region.

The gendarmes also detained Junqueras' right hand man, Josep Maria Jove, as well as two officials from the Catalan economy and budget departments, the media reports said. Both officials declined to be identified by name, following internal protocol.

"We're no longer discussing whether Catalonia has independence".

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