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Catalan Police Call for Neutrality as Spain Exerts Control

People’s Party (PP) senators and members of government applaud as Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy pauses his speech during a debate at the upper house Senate in Madrid, Spain, October 27.People’s Party (PP) senators and members of government applaud as Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy pauses his speech during a debate at the upper house Senate in Madrid, Spain, October 27.

Catalonia’s police force told its officers to remain neutral in the struggle over the region’s fight for independence on Saturday, a step toward averting possible conflict as the Madrid government starts to impose direct control.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dismissed the Catalan government, took over the administration and called a new election after the regional parliament made a unilateral declaration of independence on Friday, aggravating Spain’s worst political crisis in four decades, Reuters reported.

The declaration of Catalonia as a separate nation was almost immediately rendered futile by Rajoy’s actions, while other European countries, the United States and Mexico also rejected it and expressed support for Spain’s prime minister.

But emotions are running high and the next few days will be tricky for Madrid as it embarks on enforcing direct rule. Rajoy designated Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz Santamaria to oversee the process.

In an effort to defuse tensions, the regional police force urged its officers not to take sides, an internal note seen by Reuters showed.

There have been doubts over how the Mossos d‘Esquadra, as the Catalan police are called, would respond if ordered to evict Puigdemont and his government.

The force is riven by distrust between those for and against independence and is estranged from Spain’s national police forces, Mossos and national officers have told Reuters. Some Catalan officers stood between national police and those trying to vote during the banned referendum.

The Madrid government also sacked the Mossos’ chief, Josep Lluis Trapero, the official gazette announced on Saturday.

Trapero became a hero to the secessionists after his force took a much softer stance than national police in enforcing the ban on the referendum.

 

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