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Spain to deploy police to prevent Catalan independence vote

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Police will be deployed at polling stations to prevent people from voting in the Catalan independence referendum, the Spanish government has confirmed.

Although the Catalonia regional government has insisted the unilateral poll will go ahead on Sunday, the Spanish government has vowed to stop the vote, which it says is a clear violation of the constitution. Spain’s constitutional court has suspended the legislation underpinning the referendum while it rules on its legality.

A spokesman for the Spanish government’s Catalan delegation said on Tuesday that the region’s prosecutor had ordered the Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalonia’s police force, to take control of polling booths and identify those in charge.

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“The order has been conveyed and it will be executed with all normality,” he said.

The Spanish government said the steps it had taken over the past week, including raiding Catalan government offices, arresting 14 officials and seizing almost 10m ballot papers, meant the vote could not take place.

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“Today we can affirm that there will be no effective referendum in Catalonia,” the Spanish government’s representative in Catalonia, Enric Millo, told reporters on Tuesday. “All the referendum’s logistics have been dismantled.”In an order to police issued on Monday, the prosecutor’s office said it would take the names of anyone participating in the vote and confiscate relevant documents.

Anyone in possession of the keys or entrance codes to a polling booth could be considered a collaborator to crimes of disobedience, misuse of office and misappropriation of funds, the order said.

However, despite the words and actions of the Spanish government, not to mention the deployment of thousands of extra police officers to Catalonia, the regional government is adamant that the referendum cannot be stopped.

Catalonia’s regional president, Carles Puigdemont, has accused the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, of acting “beyond the limits of a respectable democracy” in his efforts to prevent the referendum.

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He has also compared the Spanish government’s behaviour to the repression of the Franco era and said it is only serving to drive more Catalans towards independence.

In Huelva, in the south-western region of Andalucía, Guardia Civil officers dispatched to Catalonia for the referendum were draped in Spanish flags and cheered on by locals with cries of: “Go for them!”

In Barcelona, residents have been giving out red carnations to regional police, a nod to Portugal’s 1974 revolution that toppled its military dictatorship, when people put red carnations in the barrels of soldiers’ guns.

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