Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro said a mechanism had been approved for the state to take control of the autonomous region’s finances. Madrid is seeking to stop the Catalan government spending public money on its planned independence referendum.
If the deadline is not met, the central government will take over the funding of most essential public services in the region, Mr. Montoro said.
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont launched his campaign for a “Yes” vote on Thursday night in the town of Tarragona, telling a rally at a former bullring: “Vote, and in so doing bring light to darkness that has lasted for too many years.” The crowd shouted back, “Independence”, “We will vote” and “We’re not afraid”, AFP news agency reports.
Public finances are a particularly sore point for Catalans who for years have contributed more to the state budget than they get back in spending on public services.
More than 700 Catalan mayors who have agreed to help stage the referendum now face criminal investigation and police have been ordered by Spanish prosecutors to seize ballot boxes, election flyers and any other item that could be used in the referendum.
The separatists have promised to declare independence within days if, as expected, the Yes vote prevails at the referendum.
Spanish Government Rejects Dialog Request
The Spanish government on Friday dismissed a letter from Catalan leaders offering talks over their looming independence referendum as “a trap”, and announced it would intervene in Catalonia’s finances to ensure that “not one euro” of public money was used to fund the “illegal” vote.
In the letter, addressed to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and King Felipe VI and carried by a number of media, the leaders said they were seeking talks “to make possible what in a democracy is never a problem nor still less a crime: to listen to the voice of the citizens”.
At a press conference following a cabinet meeting, Mr Méndez de Vigo said the government considered it “a sarcasm” that “at this stage of the game” Catalan leaders were speaking of dialogue when “they have only put on the table a referendum yes or yes.”
The spokesman also took aim at Ada Colau, the Barcelona mayor, over her support of the vote, warning she would be “responsible for her actions” and that she was “either with the law or against it”.
The ministers also delivered an ultimatum for Mr. Puigdemont – sign an agreement that public funds would not be diverted for the referendum within 48 hours or the government would seize control of the part of the Catalan budget destined for services and salaries.
A Metroscopia/El Pais poll published on Sunday found that 56 percent of Catalans think the referendum in its current form is illegal, and 82 percent – including 40 percent of voters for Mr. Rajoy’s PP – blame his government for “strengthening rather than weakening” independence forces.
Juncker in Hot water
EC president Jean-Claude Junker created quite a stir when he said the EU would respect a yes vote. His office now says he was misinterpreted.
It took several clarifications from Juncker to deny he said what he said.
Recall that Baseball great Yogi Berra said: “I never said most of the things I said.”
Mike “Mish” Shedlock