Spain, Catalonia tussle over who controls the Mossos police

Spanish police raid Catalan government to halt banned referendum

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.

The Spanish Public Prosecutor's office has told the head of the Catalan regional police force (Mossos d'Esquarda) that the force will now come under the control of Spanish central government, Spanish media reported Saturday.

But Catalonia's interior chief, Joaquim Forn, said his department and the local police, or Mossos d'Esquadra, did not accept this decision.

Carles Puigdemont has also claimed the Spanish state had implemented a "de facto suspension of Catalonia's self-governance" by, for instance, tightening control over Catalan finances.

"When democratic rights are suppressed, whether it's in South Africa, Ukraine, Russia, China, we're there", he said at the rally.

A spokesman for Junqueras confirmed the arrest and said that other Catalan government premises were being searched by the agents.

Catalonia's top security official says the regional government is refusing to hand over control of a regional police force to Spanish central authorities who are trying to stop a referendum on independence.

Spanish police raid Catalan government to halt banned referendum
Catalonia and the quest for independence

The interior ministry has not disclosed how many more police officers it is sending to the region but Spanish media said between 3,000 and 4,000 had already arrived or were on their way.

"Madrid should allow some constitutional change; so, the Catalans could have the right to vote and Madrid should try to convince the Catalans to stay in Spain". He said the measure "does not mean taking command" of the Catalan police, but it is "simply to agree on a means of coordination".

Prosecutors are singling out these leaders, whose groups actively support Catalonia's right to an independence vote on October 1.

"We are showing that, as students, we have a part to play". But Catalan officials remain defiant, pledging to forge ahead with the referendum.

Although polls show less than half of Catalonia's 5.5 million voters want self-rule, most in the wealthy northeastern region want the chance to vote on the issue.

Catalonia's political leaders have channeled their region's sense of identity separateness in the direction of independence in recent years, capitalizing on the populist appeal to economic nationalism in arguing that their disproportionate contribution to the national budget is unjust and therefore legitimate grounds for splitting from Spain.

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