Political News

The Latest: 'Yes' campaign for Catalan secession kicks off

Posted 4:26 p.m. Thursday
Updated 4:28 p.m. Thursday

— The Latest on Catalonia's independence referendum and the Spanish government's efforts to stop it (all times local):

10:00 p.m.

The head of Catalonia's government has kicked off a two-week "yes" campaign for a referendum on independence from Spain by calling on the region's voters to cast ballots.

Spanish courts have suspended the referendum planned for Oct. 1 and the national government has vowed to stop it. There is no official "no" campaign because most of the opposition is snubbing the vote.

Regional President Carles Puigdemont addressed thousands filling an arena in the port town of Tarragona on Thursday night for the first campaign event.

Puigdemont said: "What kind of people do they think we Catalans are? In Catalonia, we are democrats."

Vice President Oriol Junqueras says Catalans "have already won" by planning to hold a referendum despite fierce opposition and legal action against them.

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9:00 p.m.

The mayor of Barcelona says the city's residents will be able to vote on Catalonia's split from Spain after arrangements were made to protect municipal employees from legal prosecution.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau had refused to make local public facilities available as polling places for the Oct. 1 secession vote.

Colau said she supported holding the referendum, but warned that facilitating it could be considered illegal. Spain's top constitutional court has suspended the measure while it considers a legal challenge.

But Colau announced Thursday an agreement has been reached to use the regional government's facilities in Barcelona as polling stations.

The move was celebrated by independence supporters because Barcelona, Catalonia's capital, is home to one-fifth of the region's registered voters.

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3:20 p.m.

Tension is mounting between Catalan and Spain's national leaders as Catalonia's president is set to open the "yes" campaign for a planned referendum on seceding from Spain Thursday.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont is expected to begin campaigning for the ballot, planned for an Oct. 1, in Tarragona, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Barcelona.

Spain's central government insists the vote is illegal and the Constitutional Court has suspended it pending a formal decision by judges.

Spanish police have orders to prevent preparations for the ballot, while anybody collaborating in its organization is also legally liable.

But regional authorities are trying to sidestep the legal obstacles. A judge shut down the referendum website late Wednesday — but minutes later it reappeared using a different server.

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2:45 p.m.

The Spanish government's top representative in Catalonia has warned the regional president he may be committing a crime if he proceeds with plans to launch a campaign for an independence referendum.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont intends to open the "yes" campaign for an Oct. 1 ballot on secession at a major event in in Tarragona, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Barcelona..

But central government representative Enric Millo says the vote is illegal because the Constitutional Court has suspended it pending a formal decision by judges.

Millo did not say whether police would intervene to stop Puigdemont speaking amid deep tension over the breakaway bid. The police have orders to prevent preparations for the ballot, while anybody collaborating in its organization is also legally liable.

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12:15 p.m.

A mounting confrontation between Catalan and Spain's national leaders over a planned independence referendum in the Catalonia region is gripping Spain.

Spain's central government is using judicial measures to try to stop the planned Oct. 1 ballot, which it insists is unconstitutional, but regional authorities are trying to sidestep the legal obstacles.

Regional president Carles Puigdemont tells broadcaster TV3 the national government in Madrid has created a "climate of hostility and paranoia" around the planned ballot.

Meanwhile, Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria says Thursday no dialogue is possible with the Catalan authorities until they back down from their plans for a vote.

A judge shut down the referendum website late Wednesday but minutes later it reappeared using a different server.

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