Catalan leader threatens independence after chaotic Spain vote

Monday, 02 Oct, 2017

Following a day of turbulence and violence in Catalonia which left over 800 people injured, the regional government defiantly declared the referendum vote valid, despite Madrid's claim that the plebiscite "never took place".

Police across the region hit people with batons, fired rubber bullets into crowds and forcibly removed would-be voters from polling stations in actions that were condemned internationally but described by the government as "proportionate".

In an interview with The Associate Press, Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis blamed the violence exclusively on Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and his regional government.

The overwhelming "yes" vote likely reflects both anger at weeks of violent crackdowns by the Spanish, and opponents of the secession being unwilling to risk a beat-down to cast their ballots.

Catalan leaders accused Spanish police of brutality and repression while the Spanish government praised the security forces for behaving firmly and proportionately.

The region of 7.5 million people has an economy larger than that of Portugal.

He delivered the live televised address after violence broke out in Catalonia in what the government called an "illegal" referendum.

"I don't know what world Puigdemont lives in, but Spanish democracy does not work like this", said Sáenz de Santamaría. Despite their interference, almost three-quarters of the polling stations opened for the referendum on the independence of Catalonia and are working.

"Catalonia has won the right to be an independent state constituted in the form of a republic", he stated.

The Mayor of the regional capital Barcelona Ada Colau issued a statement demanding "an immediate end to police charges against the defenceless population".

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said: "Regardless of views on independence, we should all condemn the scenes being witnessed". "I am, and I feel Catalan, and I am very proud of the people, of their behaviour, like in the last seven years".

So far, the European Union, the USA and most worldwide bodies have backed Spain in its stance against Catalonia.

According to Turull, 319 of the 2,315 polling stations set up for the referendum, were closed by the police.

People in Spain's northeastern region of Catalonia have been left upset by the Spanish police's crackdown on the Catalan independence referendum. Ahead of the polls opening, the Catalan government said voters could print off their own ballot papers and use any polling station if their designated voting place was shut.