Se­ces­sion chaosaos stuns Spain

Cata­lan fury overver po­lice bru­tal­i­tyy

The Guardian Weekly - - Front page - Sam Jones and Stephen Bur­gen

The Cata­lan pres­i­dent has called for in­ter­na­tional help in tack­ling its in­de­pen­dence dis­pute with Spain, say­ing Europe can­not con­tinue to ig­nore the issue af­ter al­most 900 peo­ple were in­jured dur­ing the po­lice crack­down on last Sun­day’s ref­er­en­dum.

“The Euro­pean com­mis­sion must en­cour­age in­ter­na­tional me­di­a­tion,” Car­les Puigde­mont (pic­tured be­low) said on Mon­day. “It can­not look the other way any longer.”

At least 33 po­lice of­fi­cers and 893 oth­ers were re­ported to have been hurt last Sun­day af­ter riot po­lice stormed polling sta­tions, drag­ging out vot­ers and fir­ing rub­ber bul­lets into the crowd.

Puigde­mont’s gov­ern­ment claimed that 90% of those who took part voted for in­de­pen­dence, ence, but it seems the Cata­lan leader’s der’s call for me­di­a­tion may sug­gestest a shift in strat­egy as he had pre­vi­ous­lye­vi­ously said that in­de­pen­dence would ould be de­clared within 48 hoursrs of a vic­tory for the yes ca­mam­paign.

The Euro­pean com­m­mis­sion has re­peat­edly y de­clined to in­ter­vene e in what de­scribed as s an in­ter­nal Span­ish mat­ter and has urged both sides to “move ve very swiftly from con­n­fronta­tion to di­a­logue”. e”. In a state­ment, it said: “Vi­o­lence can never be an in­stru­ment in pol­i­tics. We trust the lead­er­ship of prime min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy to man­age this dif­fi­cult pro­cess in full re­spect of the Span­ish con­sti­tu­tion and of the fun­da­men­tal rights of cit­i­zens en­shrined therein.” A state­ment from the French pres­i­dent, Em­manuel Macron, said he had backed the “con­sti­tu­tional unity of Spain” in a tele­phone call with Ra­joy. Much of Cat­alo­nia was brought to a stand­still for 10 min­utes on Mon­day in protest at the po­lice vi­o­lence. Squares were oc­cu­pied and roads blocked as crowds chanted “In­de­pen­dence!” The Plaça Sant Jaume, the seat of the Barcelona city coun­cil and the Cata­lan gov­ern­ment, was packed with pro­test­ers. Jordi Cuixart, the leader of the pro-in­de­pen­dence group Òm­nium Cul­tural, told the crowd that a gen­eral strike called for Tuesday was “the best re­sponse the Cata­lan peo­ple can make to the at­tacks on us yes­ter­day and in re­cent weeks”. The po­lice op­er­a­tion was crit­i­cised by the UN high com­mis­sioner for hu­man rights, wh who said he had been “very dis­tur dis­turbed” by the vi­o­lence in Cata Cat­alo­nia. “With hun­dred­shun of peo­ple re­ported in­jure in­jured, I urge the Span­ish au­thor­i­tiesauth to en­sure thoro thor­ough, in­de­pen­dent and im­par­tial in­ves­ti­gati gations into all acts of vio vi­o­lence,” Zeid Ra’ad al- Hus­sein said. “P “Po­lice re­sponses must at all times be pro­por­tion­ate and nec­es­sary.” Hus­sein asked Spain to im­me­di­ately ac­cept re­quests for UN hu­man rights mon­i­tors to visit the coun­try.

Puigde­mont urged the Span­ish gov­ern­ment to with­draw the na­tional po­lice and Guardia Civil of­fi­cers who were de­ployed to pre­vent the ref­er­en­dum. He also an­nounced that his gov­ern­ment would cre­ate a com­mis­sion to ex­am­ine hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions.

A spokesman for the Cata­lan gov­ern­ment said 2.26 mil­lion Cata­lans – 43% of 5.3 mil­lion el­i­gi­ble vot­ers – had taken part in the ref­er­en­dum, which was staged in de­fi­ance of the Span­ish gov­ern­ment, the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tional court and the Cata­lan high court. He said 90% had opted for in­de­pen­dence, with nearly 8% of vot­ers against; the re­main­ing pa­pers were blank or void.

The Cata­lan gov­ern­ment had not set a min­i­mum thresh­old for turnout, ar­gu­ing the vote would be bind­ing re­gard­less of the level of par­tic­i­pa­tion. In a sym­bolic ref­er­en­dum held three years ago in Cat­alo­nia, 80% of vot­ers backed in­de­pen­dence, with 2.3 mil­lion of 5.4 mil­lion el­i­gi­ble vot­ers tak­ing part.

The Span­ish ten­nis player Rafael Nadal said he felt like cry­ing af­ter the vote. Nadal, a na­tional hero who con­demned the ref­er­en­dum be­fore it was held, told a press con­fer­ence in Bei­jing be­fore the start of the China Open: “I want to cry when I see a coun­try where we have known how to co-ex­ist and be a good ex­am­ple to the rest of the world get to a sit­u­a­tion like this.”

Al­though mil­lions of Cata­lans man­aged to cast their bal­lots, oth­ers were pre­vented from vot­ing as schools hous­ing bal­lot boxes were raided by po­lice. Madrid said the po­lice had been act­ing to de­fend the con­sti­tu­tion and Span­ish democ­racy.

Ra­joy thanked the po­lice for act­ing with “firm­ness and seren­ity”. “The rule of law re­mains in force with all its strength. We are the gov­ern­ment of Spain and I am the head of the gov­ern­ment.”

The prime min­is­ter met Span­ish op­po­si­tion lead­ers on Mon­day to dis­cuss the worst ter­ri­to­rial cri­sis the coun­try has faced since its re­turn to democ­racy four decades ago. Pe­dro Sánchez, the leader of the Span­ish So­cial­ist Work­ers’ party, said he had told Ra­joy of his dis­ap­proval over the po­lice op­er­a­tion and asked him to find a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion and to open ne­go­ti­a­tions with Puigde­mont.

Dan Kit­wood/Getty

Si­lence against vi­o­lence … stu­dents protest against po­lice ef­forts to halt the ref­er­en­dum

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