Madrid tightens control over spending in separatist Catalonia
Spain’s central government launched its latest salvo against Catalonia on Friday, tightening control over regional spending and brushing aside a lastditch separatist demand for dialogue to allow a banned referendum.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was due later Friday in the Catalan capital of Barcelona to rally his troops against a backdrop of soaring tensions over separatist leaders’ plans to hold the outlawed independence vote on October 1.
State authorities piled pressure on Catalonia, threatening to arrest mayors if they facilitate the referendum and ordering police to seize items that could be used in the vote.
But separatists have reacted with defiance.
On Thursday evening, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and other regional players launched their campaign for the referendum in front of a crowd of thousands of cheering supporters in the coastal city of Tarragona, ignoring warnings that the event was “illegal.”
In an open letter distributed to domestic and foreign media on Friday, Puigdemont and other leaders including Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau denounced “unprecedented repression” by Madrid.
They also asked Rajoy and the Spanish king for a last-ditch dialogue, but were rebuked by the government.