Madrid tightens grip over Catalan spending to stop independence vote
MADRID — Spain’s central authorities have increased their control over Catalonia’s regional spending to make sure that no funds are diverted to paying for a suspended independence referendum, the country’s finance minister said Friday.
Following the weekly meeting of the Spanish cabinet, Cristobal Montoro said the government is also giving Catalan officials 48 hours to comply with a new system that calls for weekly — not monthly — reports “to guarantee that not one euro will go toward financing illegal acts,” a move Catalan officials refuse to do.
Montoro told reporters the extraordinary controls were justified in order to pay civil servants and suppliers procuring services in education and health, among other essentials, while at the same time ensuring financial stability and defending the country’s legal order.
Last week, Spain’s constitutional court decided to suspend an independence referendum that Catalan leaders had pencilled in for Oct. 1, while judges decide if it is unconstitutional, as the central government in Madrid has argued.
Separatist politicians in Catalonia — Spain’s richest region that has Barcelona as its major city — are still pressing ahead with the referendum despite the ban and despite the launch of a criminal investigation into three-quarters of Catalonia’s mayors who have supported the vote.