Spain has discreetly hired ferries to be moored in the Port of Barcelona as temporary housing for possibly thousands of police specially deployed to keep order in rebel Catalonia and help suppress an illegal independence referendum.
The aim is to amass more than 16,000 riot police and other security officers by the Oct. 1 referendum, El Correo newspaper reported on its website. That would exceed the number of Catalan police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, who serve both the Catalan and central governments.
Three Boats for Additional Police Arrive in Catalonia
Three cruise-size boats have docked in Barcelona and Tarragona, commissioned by the Spanish government, there to accommodate more police reinforcements.
The three ships arrived this morning. The first, located at the Lepant Dock in Barcelona, is called Rhapsody with capacity of more than 2,000 people. The second, called GNV Azzurro, is currently in the Tarragona Andalusia Dock, has space for 800 people. The third, which arrived last and is now stationed at the Barcelona Prince of Spain Dock, is Italian like the two other vessels and is named Moby Dada. The latter has capacity for 1,000 passengers.
“It is obvious that we won’t be able to vote as we would have liked,” Oriol Junqueras, deputy head and economy minister of the regional government, told local television TV3. “They have altered the rules.”
It was the first time the promoters of the referendum had acknowledged their plans were in doubt, although Junqueras said he was convinced voters would still turn out in numbers.
Violation of Basic Rights
Is there a difference between conducting a vote as they would have liked vs conducting a vote at all?
As of this morning, the Catalan president said the vote would take place. “The aggressive tactics of Mariano Rajoy’s government have caused this crisis. All Catalan citizens want is to peacefully exercise our democratic right,”
said Carles Puigdemont, president of Catalonia.
Democracy has been under a lot of pressure in Catalonia for the past few weeks. European values, civil rights, freedom of speech, freedom of information and freedom of assembly are being violated by Spain’s central government, which has sent the police to search newspapers, printing companies and private mail services; ban political meetings; seize referendum material; and threaten to imprison democratically elected politicians.
On Wednesday, this moved up a gear, when threats became reality and Spanish paramilitary police took Catalonia to a de facto state of emergency. Fourteen high-ranking government officials were arrested as part of the anti-referendum operation, as police raided government buildings, offices and private homes. What is happening here in Catalonia would not happen anywhere else in the European Union.
We have arrived at this unacceptable situation after asking Madrid for political dialogue dozens of times, and each time being rejected by the Spanish executive, which has consistently refused to discuss Catalonia’s future. But a healthy democracy needs dialogue in order to evolve. Instead of engaging in discourse, the Spanish government has opted for police and judges, taking us beyond the limits of a respectable democracy.
With the arrests of high-ranking officials and threats to detain democratically elected politicians, I believe the Spanish government has violated the European charter of fundamental rights. The EU itself is built on these values and is committed to guaranteeing the rights proclaimed in the charter and in the EU treaties. As an EU member state, Spain should respect that. If not, it is the European commission’s duty to intervene. The rule of law is accepted across Europe as the guarantee of our rights, but the Spanish president, Mariano Rajoy, is twisting our law to suit his own political ends in blocking the referendum. Spain’s constitution was introduced to cement democracy after Franco’s dictatorship, but this government is exploiting its wording as a means to deny us our right to vote.
We have only arrived at this crisis due to aggressive tactics employed by Rajoy over the past seven years. In 2010, the Spanish constitutional court annulled a large part of the Catalan statute of autonomy negotiated between Catalonia and the previous prime minister, José Luis Zapatero.
The ruling by the court – whose current president is a former activist for Rajoy’s conservative Popular party – showed contempt for the legitimacy of the statute of autonomy, which had been approved by both the Catalan and Spanish parliaments, and also by the Catalan citizens through a referendum. More than a million people marched against this annulment in Barcelona in July 2010. Since then, millions more Catalan citizens have taken peacefully to the streets in defence of self-rule and the right to decide on their political future.
No longer will we compromise on our desire for a referendum. We won’t give up on it. Catalans will exercise their right to decide in the 1 October referendum – whatever the actions of central government. We call on the international community to stand with Catalonia in its defence of democracy and true European values. In the meantime, our citizens must be ready to defend democracy and self-rule in the coming days with the only weapons we have: ballot boxes and a peaceful attitude.
Via Email, Eurointelligence calls Spain’s sending in the troops a watershed moment.
For over a year now we have been insisting that our readers should keep the Catalan separatist challenge to Spain on their radar as one likely source of political instability in Europe. We have also warned that things must come to a head by September, as at least one of the key players would have to stage a big climb-down if a major clash was to be avoided. Yesterday turned out to be just that watershed moment in the Catalan crisis.
The Guardia Civil confiscated nearly ten million ballot papers, and additional supporting material such as voter lists and tally forms, for the illegal referendum scheduled for October 1st. This was a day after intercepting voter cards and notices for voters to man the polling stations. Without voter rolls or ballots, the referendum – organised in defiance of a Spanish constitutional court injunction – is now almost certain not to take place. But it hardly matters any more, because the situation has progressed to the next stage. The reason is that the police operation also involved the arrest yesterday morning of up to sixteen Catalan government officials, in connection with the investigation into the organisation of the referendum. The risk now is that the conflict will move to the streets. The development to watch out for over the next ten days or so – and especially after the week-end – is whether protests will escalate and how the Spanish security forces will control them. A glimpse of the scale of protests that took place yesterday, not only in Catalonia but across Spain, can be had at hashtag #CatalunyaNoEstasSola.
Yesterday’s arrests were not initiated by the state prosecutors who can be presumed to be under political control of the justice ministry. The police operation was ordered ex-officio by a judge investigating the organisation of the Catalan referendum since February, when former judge – and then ERC senator – Santi Vidal boasted that the Catalan tax office had stolen the taxpayer data for its voter database, as we reported at the time.
There is some controversy about whether the judge followed the appropriate procedures in this case, and critics are questioning his political motives.
The judge’s choice of people to arrest is also revealing: they stop at the deputy secretary of economy and finance of the Catalan government, because as a political appointee he does not enjoy immunity from prosecution. Targeting his boss, deputy Catalan PM and ERC leader Oriol Junqueras, would have forced the case to be moved to the Catalan high court.
Let the Vote Take Place
I repeat what I stated yesterday …
Edward Snowden makes a similar set of statement.
Will the Catalan Independence Vote Take Place on October 1?
Mike “Mish” Shedlock