Secession chaosaos stuns Spain
Catalan fury overver police brutalityy
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.
Silence against violence … students protest against police efforts to halt the referendum