Catalan Mayors Defy Spain Gov’t

Catalan Mayors Defy Spain Gov’tCatalan Mayors Defy Spain Gov’t

More than 700 mayors from Catalonia gathered in Barcelona on Saturday in defiance of Spain’s central government to show their support for an independence referendum.

Tensions are heating up ahead of the vote scheduled for October 1 despite opposition from Madrid and a supreme court ruling calling it illegal, DW reported.

Hundreds of regional mayors face arrest if they do not comply with prosecutors’ orders to come in for questioning for helping to prepare the vote.

More than two-thirds of the autonomous region’s mayors have said they will facilitate the vote and allow municipal buildings to be used, in violation of Madrid’s orders. Organizing the referendum will be nearly impossible without the cooperation of local municipalities.

  About Vote, Not Independence

The mayors attended the rally in Barcelona with the city’s mayor Ada Colau and Catalan’s regional President Carles Puigdemont.

“We will not be intimidated. This is not about independence, it’s about our rights,” said Colau.

Colau has said she reached agreement with the regional government to allow the vote in Barcelona “without putting institutions or public workers at risk.” It is unclear what arrangement was reached.

A minority of Catalans wants independence, but a majority support an independence vote to settle the issue, according to a poll.

  Madrid Applies Pressure

On Saturday, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy vowed to block the vote.

“The only thing I ask of mayors is that they comply with the law, and as such don’t participate in an illegal referendum,” Rajoy said.

Police in recent days have conduced raids seizing printing materials, ballots and other materials to support the referendum. Catalonia’s top court has also warned seven newspapers against publishing campaign material.

On Friday, the Spanish government threatened to take away Catalonia’s budget to prevent spending on the referendum. Since July, Madrid has demanded weekly spending reports in an attempt to prevent public money being used for the referendum.

Spain’s 17 regions pay taxes to the central government which then redistributes funds for local social security, police, emergency services and education. Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro said on Friday that the central government would take over the funding of most essential public services in the region unless Puigdemont guaranteed public cash was not being used to fund the referendum.

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