Protests, tensions intensify in Spain as date for secession vote approaches in Catalonia region

Protests, tensions intensify in Spain as date for secession vote approaches in Catalonia region

[JURIST] Numerous raids on government and corporate headquarters in the Catalonia region of Spain, which includes the city of Barcelona [official website] and has a population around 7.5 million, have led to widespread protesting and increasing tension [BBC report] between police and civilians. The conflicts come as an October 1 vote for independence [VilaWeb report, in Catalan] in the region, a vote the Spanish government has taken several actions to stop, looms less than two weeks away.

In addition to the raids on more than 40 ministries and three large private corporations, at least 14 Catalan officials have been detained, including members of prominent government bodies such as the economy ministry, and Josep Maria Jové [Reuters report], a high-ranking official with the vice presidency of Catalonia. The vice president of wealthy Catalonia region, Oriol Junqueras, tweeted [tweet, in Spanish] a video of himself giving a speech to a group of protestors Wednesday along with the message "Only the people save the people. United for democracy."

The upcoming independence referendum in Catalonia has received considerably more attention from the central Spanish government than a previous vote, which occurred in 2014. This may be the result of a commitment by Catalonia leadership to declare independence from Spain within 48 hours of a yes vote. Spain's Constitutional Court [official website] has ordered the Catalonia region to suspend the vote [JURIST report]. Officials from Madrid, Spain's capital, claim defiance of that order has given them authority to crackdown on government and corporate officials in the region who continue to push for the vote. At a speech in La Moncloa on Wednesday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called [EITB report, in Spanish] the pro-secession "illegal and illegitimate" as well as a "major evil."

In a separate but related effort to regain control over the quickly escalating pro-secession movement in Catalan, Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis has given officials in the region repeated deadlines to discontinue the vote for independence. Dastis, who has said that Catalan sepratists are employing "Nazi" tactics, has said that the central government in Madrid will take over funding for basic services if Catalonian officials continue to proceed with the independence referendum.