Spanish police arrested top-ranking Catalan officials including the region’s junior economy minister Josep Maria Jove, as Madrid launched a crackdown on Catalonia over the upcoming Independence referendum Reuters reported. Jove, who is a senior member of the Republican Left of Catalonia political party, was detained following a Wednesday morning raid carried out by Spain’s Civil Guard, which has the authority of both the Interior and the Defence ministries.
At least a dozen high-ranking local officials were arrested, La Vanguardia newspaper said. Among those detained are Josue Sallent Rivas from the Centre of Telecommunications and Information Technology, Xavier Puig Farré from the Office of Social Affairs and Josep Maria Salvat Tenesa from the Ministry of Economics and Finance.
Police, acting under court orders, have stepped up raids on printers, newspaper offices and private delivery companies in recent days in a search for campaign literature, instruction manuals for manning voting stations and ballot boxes.
On Tuesday, Spain’s Civil Guard, a national police force, seized more than 45,000 envelopes packed in cardboard boxes that the Catalan government was ready to send to notify people around the region about the referendum.
"Catalonia is now in a state of siege ”, Catalonia’s Minister of Labor, Social Affairs and Family Dolors Bassa said on Twitter, confirming that the Civil Guard has also entered her department.
I ara,a nostre departament també , acaba d'entrar la Guardia Civil.Estem en un estat de setge ! Vergonyós !@govern .Votarem #1dO— Dolors Bassa (@dolorsbassac) September 20, 2017
Meanwhile, the fiercely pro-independence leader of the regional government, Carles Puigdemont, has called an emergency meeting of his cabinet for 10:30 CET (8:30 GMT), the sources said.
Police efforts to stop the planned Oct. 1 referendum on splitting from Spain have intensified in recent days as the wealthy northeastern region shows no signs of halting the vote which the central government says is illegal. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the offices of the regional government’s economy ministry in the center of Barcelona’s tourist district, chanting “They will not pass” and “We will vote”, a Reuters witness said.
That did not stop the Civil Guard from conducting searches of the Catalonian government buildings including the region’s economy, interior, foreign affairs, welfare, telecommunications and tax departments.
“They are attacking the institutions of this country and attacking the citizens. We will not allow it” Oriol Junqueras, the Vice President of the Catalan Government, wrote on Twitter.
Estan atacant les institucions d'aquest país i per tant atacant els ciutadans. No ho permetrem.— Oriol Junqueras (@junqueras) September 20, 2017
On Wednesday, a protest has been staged in front of the Economic Department of the Catalonian Government, according to photos and videos on Twitter. People were reportedly shouting “We want to vote” and “democracy.”
Más manifestantes en la sede de Economía. "Queremos votar", "democracia" y "fuera las fuerzas de ocupación" pic.twitter.com/PxZh9eRu0V— Josep Catà (@jcatafiguls) September 20, 2017
Earlier in the month, Catalonia’s Parliament passed a bill paving the way for an independence referendum to be held on October 1. However, the Constitutional Court has suspended the vote after the central government challenged its legality. Spain’s central government says the referendum goes against the country’s 1978 constitution which states Spain is indivisible.
Medio centenar de manifestantes se concentran en el dep de economía para protestar contra el registro por el referéndum pic.twitter.com/mIgFoZdvDq— Josep Catà (@jcatafiguls) September 20, 2017
As reported previously, the Spanish state prosecutor ordered a criminal investigation of 712 Catalan mayors for co-operating with the process. Catalonia previously held an independence referendum in 2014, which saw 80 percent of voters choose independence. Nevertheless, it was ruled unconstitutional by Madrid.