Spain sends more police to Catalonia to block referendum

Spain sends more police to Catalonia to block referendum

The escalating constitutional row has seen Catalonia's devolved government determined to hold an unsanctioned vote on October 1 and Spain using increasingly heavy-handed tactics to prevent it.

Spain will deploy police reinforcements to Catalonia to help maintain order if an independence referendum pledged by Catalan officials but opposed by the national government goes ahead, officials said Friday.

Catalonia's president Carles Puigdemont issued a statement late Thursday saying the referendum would be held "because we had prepared some plans to protect ourselves from any eventuality and guarantee the vote".

Diego Pérez de los Cobos, a colonel in Spain's Civil Guards, was named "technical director" on Saturday to supervise the work of the Civil Guards, National Police and the "Mossos", a local Catalan police force, El País reported.

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Around 40,000 people protested outside the Catalan economy ministry in Barcelona as police raided the building and arrested the regional economy minister, Josep Maria Jové.

There have been intermittent pro-referendum protests, at times by thousands of people, since a judge ordered raids on Catalan government offices and arrested a dozen officials on Wednesday. Three ferries docked in harbors in Barcelona and Tarragona, about 60 miles (100 km) south of the regional capital, will provide accommodation for the extra police.

"You", said Rajoy, speaking to the Catalan separatist government "are making a mistake and you are going to force us to go where we don't want to go", he said last week in a televised speech at a ruling Popular Party meeting. The Mossos watched impassively for more than 12 hours.

The Catalan regional government says that a top official in the management of the region's economic affairs has been arrested as a crackdown intensifies on preparations for a secession vote that Spanish authorities have suspended. The Spanish government called the bill illegal and challenged it in the Constitutional Court. Earlier this week, the budget ministry took over management of Catalan's finances and will be making salary payments to more than 200,000 public workers in the region, including the police.

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