‘Stop looking away after vote violence’
Catalonia: Leader demands international mediation
Catalonia’s leader has called for international mediation and for the European Union “to stop looking the other way” in the region’s bid to secede from Spain, a day after a violent crackdown by Spanish police trying to block referendum voting.
Carles Puigdemont also said he would file a complaint against Spanish police after officers fired rubber bullets, smashed into polling stations on Sunday and beat back protesters with batons.
Mr Puigdemont also urged Spain’s national police reinforcements to leave the north-eastern region. However, Spanish authorities commended officers, saying they had acted professionally.
Spain’s interior minister said the 5,000 officers deployed to Catalonia would stay as long as necessary.
Catalan officials say a majority of voters supported independence from Spain, but the central government in Madrid has repeatedly condemned the referendum as illegal.
The EU and most governments in the 28-nation bloc have not backed Catalonia’s independence movement, fearful that it could unleash a wave of secessionist movements.
But Mr Puigdemont called for the EU to consider Catalonia’s desire to break away from Spain as a regional problem, and urged Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s government to accept mediation.
“The European Union has to stop looking the other way,” Mr Puigdemont said.
“This is not a domestic issue. The need for mediation is evident.”
More than 890 people were injured, most of them not seriously, in confrontations with police trying to shut down the voting. More than 30 police officers were also injured.
Speaking after a closeddoor meeting, the Catalan president said the regional parliament plans to declare independence in the next few days.
The impasse developed after Catalan authorities decided to go ahead with Sunday’s referendum even after Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended it.
Catalonia said preliminary poll results showed 90% favoured independence after less than half the electorate voted.
The EU urged all sides in Spain to move from confrontation to dialogue.
“These are times for unity and stability,” EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas said.
PROTEST: Catalan police stand in front of protesters in Barcelona as they gesture at Spanish police against violence that marred the vote