Catalans protest in Barcelona as independence vote dealt a blow

Thousands took to the streets of the Mediterranean seaside city on Wednesday after police detained key members of the team allegedly organising the vote slated for October 1 in a region deeply divided over independence.

Catalans protest in Barcelona as independence vote dealt a blow

World Bulletin / News Desk

Catalonia's vice-president admitted Thursday that plans to hold an outlawed independence referendum had been dealt a major blow by a crackdown the previous day, as people gathered in Barcelona for a second day of protests.

Authorities seized nearly 10 million ballots destined for the vote, seriously damaging separatist plans for a referendum with a semblance of legitimacy, even if it was never going to be recognised by Madrid or abroad as it violates the constitution.

- Rules have 'changed' -
After a day-long protest that lasted well into the night, several thousand independence supporters gathered again Thursday in front of the high court in what influential separatist organisations said would be a "permanent mobilisation" until the officials are freed.

A spokesman for Spain's interior ministry said three of the 14 detained had already been released.

Oriol Junqueras, the region's vice-president whose deputy was among those held, told Catalonia's TV3 television that the operation meant "the rules of the game have been changed."

"The circumstances today are different because a significant part of our team, half of the economics team, has been arrested," he said.

"That (the referendum) cannot be held in the circumstances that we wanted is obvious," he said.

Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull was more optimistic, telling Catalan radio there was "a solution to all problems."

But the road ahead is complicated.

Police have seized over 45,000 notifications destined for Catalans selected to staff polling stations, threatened to arrest mayors who facilitate the vote if they do not comply with a criminal probe and tightened control over the region's finances.

The confiscation of millions of ballot papers on Wednesday delivered an added blow to referendum plans.

"Madrid's legal response to the Catalan challenge looks increasingly likely to stop the organisation of the self-determination vote, or at least devoid it of any legitimacy," wrote Antonio Barroso, deputy director of research at advisory firm Teneo Intelligence.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 21 Eylül 2017, 16:31