Spain cranks up pres­sure on Cata­lan break­away bid

The Niagara Falls Review - - WORLD NEWS -

MADRID — Spain’s top prose­cu­tor is in­ves­ti­gat­ing more than 700 Cata­lan may­ors for co-op­er­at­ing with a planned ref­er­en­dum on the re­gion’s in­de­pen­dence af­ter the na­tion’s con­sti­tu­tional court or­dered the vote put on hold, the prose­cu­tor’s of­fice said Wed­nes­day.

Cat­alo­nia’s re­gional po­lice force is un­der or­ders to ar­rest the may­ors if they refuse to ap­pear for ques­tion­ing, State Prose­cu­tor Jose Manuel Maza’s of­fice said.

The an­nounce­ment sig­nif­i­cantly raised the stakes in an in­creas­ingly tense stand­off be­tween Cata­lan in­de­pen­dence sup­port­ers and na­tional author­i­ties over the ref­er­en­dum planned for Oct. 1.

If may­ors and their municipalities can­not help or­ga­nize bal­lot­ing, the vote is un­likely to pro­ceed. Maza’s or­der also puts re­gional po­lice of­fi­cers in the un­easy po­si­tion of car­ry­ing out com­mands from Madrid in their towns and cities.

The pro-in­de­pen­dence coali­tion rul­ing Cat­alo­nia has vowed to hold the ref­er­en­dum, de­fy­ing a pro­hi­bi­tion by Spain’s con­sti­tu­tional Court. It has asked the 947 may­ors in the north­east­ern re­gion to pro­vide vot­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

Maza or­dered the pros­e­cu­tors in Spain’s 17 prov­inces to in­ves­ti­gate the 712 may­ors who al­ready have of­fered to pro­vide mu­nic­i­pal premises as polling sta­tions.

Most of Cat­alo­nia’s may­ors have said they would co-op­er­ate with the ref­er­en­dum. How­ever, the will­ing may­ors rep­re­sent less than half of the re­gion’s votin­gage pop­u­la­tion.

Ur­ban sup­port is key for the pro-in­de­pen­dence move­ment, es­pe­cially the Cata­lan cap­i­tal of Barcelona, which is home to around 20 per cent of vot­ers.

Barcelona Mayor Ana Co­lau, who op­poses se­ces­sion but sup­ports a vote, says she wants to help ar­range the ref­er­en­dum but won’t do so with­out as­sur­ances that she and her staff would be act­ing legally.

Such as­sur­ance is un­likely to ma­te­ri­al­ize, and with­out Barcelona’s par­tic­i­pa­tion, the ref­er­en­dum would lack le­git­i­macy.

Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy ap­pealed to Cata­lans to ig­nore calls from in­de­pen­dence sup­port­ers to turn out to vote.

“If any­one urges you to go to a polling sta­tion, don’t go, be­cause the ref­er­en­dum can’t take place, it would be an ab­so­lutely il­le­gal act,” Ra­joy said.

Spain’s King Felipe VI also en­tered the fray, step­ping up the pres­sure on Cat­alo­nia by vow­ing that the Span­ish Con­sti­tu­tion “will pre­vail” over any at­tempt to break the coun­try apart.

In his first com­ments on the grow­ing po­lit­i­cal cri­sis, Felipe said the rights of all Spa­niards will be up­held against “who­ever steps out­side con­sti­tu­tional and statu­tory law.”

AFP/GETTY IMAGES

A woman and some chil­dren feed pi­geons Wed­nes­day in Barcelona’s Cat­alo­nia square in front of a build­ing with a ban­ner read­ing “Yes. Ref­er­en­dum is democ­racy” call­ing to vote in the Oc­to­ber 1 ref­er­en­dum on Cata­lan in­de­pen­dence.

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