(National Sentinel) Democracy Denied: The Spanish government sent armed riot policy to polling stations in Catalonia ahead of a banned vote for independence, deepening the crisis in the country and likely emboldening supporters of separation.
Agence France Presse reported that police fired rubber bullets to disperse polling stations held by separatists as they sought to prevent a vote that had been banned by Madrid.
AFP noted further:
“Spanish democracy faces its greatest challenge,” headlined top-selling El Pais daily just hours before police moved in en masse to seal off polling stations and seize ballot boxes, sparking scuffles as they sought to block the vote.
At least 38 people were injured in the clashes, along with another 11 policemen, officials said.
More than 5.3 million people have been called upon to have their say on independence from Spain in the wealthy northeastern region which has its own distinct language and culture.
The referendum poses the question: “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?”
But it has been ruled unconstitutional by the the central government in Madrid and the courts, with judicial officials ordering police to seize ballot papers, detain key organisers and shut down websites promoting the vote.
Thousands of Spanish police fanned out across the region on Sunday, forcing their way into polling stations.
The use of force by Madrid drew sharp criticism from leaders of Catalan independence.
“The unjustified use of violence, which is both irrational and irresponsible, by the Spanish state will not stop the will of the Catalan people,” Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said.
He accused police of using “batons, rubber bullets and indiscriminate force” against people demonstrating “peacefully.”
“The head of a cowardly government has flooded our city with police,” Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau wrote on Twitter, adding: “Barcelona city of peace, we are not afraid” — a slogan coined after August’s jihadist rampage that killed 16 people.
The violence came after a night of tension, in which thousands gathered at polling stations in anticipation of voting.
Catalans are divided on the issue of independence, but most want a referendum on the issue to make the choice official.
Pro-separatist lawmakers in Catalonia have pushed for an independence referendum since September 2015 when they won a narrow majority of 72 seats in the region’s parliament.
Although Catalonia already has significant control over education, healthcare and welfare, the region says it pays more in taxes than it receives in investments and transfers from Madrid.
The Catalan government says independence would leave the region richer and more able to protect its language and culture.
Any vote of independence would not be recognized by the government in Madrid and, most likely, not by the international community.
A minority of around 40 percent of Catalans support independence, polls show, although a majority want to hold a referendum on the issue. The region of 7.5 million people has an economy larger than that of Portugal, Reuters added.
It’s not in Spain’s — or the European Union’s — interests to see the country fractured, especially after Brits voted narrowly to leave the EU last year. A successful independence movement in Spain could spark similar movements and unrest in other European countries.
It could also embolden some in the U.S. to push for regional independence from Washington, and the elites know it.
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