The Latest: Catalan police told to clear out polling places
Regional police in northeastern Catalonia have received orders from superiors to clear out polling stations by 6 a.m. Sunday to prevent the Catalan government’s planned referendum on independence from Spain from taking place.
An internal memo sent Friday by force chief Major Josep Lluis Trapero that The Associated Press has seen says a police patrol is to visit every one of the 2,315 polling stations and will confiscate ballot boxes and electoral papers and shut down the station.
It said officers should not use instruments such as batons and only use force to accompany people out of the polling stations if necessary.
It said the measure was in line with a court order for the regional police and other security forces to ensure that the vote, which Spain says is illegal, does not take place.
How the 17,000 Catalan regional police respond to this order is regarded as key to the success or failure of the planned vote.
French President Emmanuel Macron is standing firmly behind the central government in Spain in its dispute with the Catalonia region over an independence vote.
Macron said at the end of a European Union summit Friday: “I respect a simple principle — We don’t have lessons to give, one member state to another.”
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy missed the event because of the domestic crisis surrounding the Catalan vote planned for Sunday.
Macron said: “I have confidence in the determination of Mariano Rajoy to defend the interest of all of Spain.”
A senior European Union official says people should respect the constitution and rule of law in their countries — comments that come ahead of Sunday’s planned referendum on independence in Spain’s Catalonia region.
European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans says Friday that the way any EU nation’s people organize themselves “should done in accordance with the constitution of that member state.”
He said: “That is the rule of law — you abide by the law and the constitution even if you don’t like it.”
Catalan politicians have pushed to hold the independence vote for the northeastern region against the wishes of the central government in Madrid and against the ruling of Spain’s Constitutional Court.
A Spanish conservative group has set up a large, mock ballot box in the center of Madrid and urged people to vote whether they want Catalonia to remain part of Spain.
The act in Madrid’s emblematic Puerta del Sol square on Friday came in criticism of Catalonia’s planned referendum on secession being held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government.
The protest was organized by the Make Yourself Heard group that has previously staged protests against abortion and gay marriage. Group president Ignacio Arsuaga said the independence of Catalonia was an issue that all Spaniards should be able to vote on, not just Catalans, adding that he favored unity.
The group said several thousand people posted votes, most they reckoned in favor of Catalonia remaining part of Spain.
Catalan farmers on scores of tractors have converged on Barcelona, driving slowly along the city’s broad boulevards in a show of support for Sunday’s planned referendum on the region’s independence.