Spanish government to Catalonia: Yes to dialogue, no to referendum

Published 21.09.2017 23:57

The Spanish government is confident that Catalonia's independence referendum will not take place, following controversial police arrests and confiscations designed to stop it.

"Clearly, this referendum will not take place," Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo, also education minister, told Onda Cero radio yesterday. A day earlier, Spanish police raided several Catalan regional government buildings, arrested 14 politicians and officials, and impounded some 10 million ballot papers.

The government is ready to talk about more devolution, "but within the law and the constitution," whereas Catalan leaders "have only one obsession, the referendum, which is not possible."

On Wednesday, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont vowed to carry on with referendum plans, saying "we will not take a step back" and accusing Madrid of a "totalitarian and anti-democratic attitude."

Police raids sparked pro-independence protests, with about 40,000 demonstrating in central Barcelona on Wednesday. Hundreds continued their protest overnight, and there were clashes with police. Omnium Cultural and Asamblea Nacional Catalana, two pro-independence associations, said protests would resume and continue until the release of all those arrested.

On Wednesday, FC Barcelona football club also took a stand against police raids, angering Mendez de Vigo. "Barca is not just a Catalan club. I'm sure that many were disgusted by its statement yesterday," he said.

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