Spain tightens control over Catalan spending as tensions soar

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was due later Friday in the Catalan capital of Barcelona to rally his troops against a backdrop of soaring tensions over separatist leaders' plans to hold the outlawed independence vote on October 1.

Spain tightens control over Catalan spending as tensions soar

World Bulletin / News Desk

Spain's central government launched its latest salvo against Catalonia on Friday, tightening control over regional spending and brushing aside a last-ditch separatist demand for dialogue to allow a banned referendum.

State authorities have piled pressure on Catalonia, threatening to arrest mayors if they facilitate the referendum and ordering police to seize any item that could be used in the vote in a region sharply divided over whether it wants independence or not.

They went a step further Friday by tightening control over Catalonia's spending to prevent the region from using money to organise the referendum.

Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro said Spain's central government would take over the payments of essential services and public workers' salaries in the region to make sure the cash went just to them.

But separatists have reacted with defiance to attempts to stop the vote.

On Thursday evening, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and other regional players launched their campaign for the referendum in front of a crowd of thousands of cheering supporters in the coastal city of Tarragona, ignoring warnings that the event was "illegal."

In an open letter distributed to domestic and foreign media on Friday, Puigdemont and other leaders including Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau denounced "unprecedented repression" by Madrid.

They also asked Rajoy and the Spanish king for a last-ditch dialogue, but were promptly rebuked.

"It's ironic coming from those who have refused dialogue save for a very specific issue -- the only one they care about -- the independence referendum," government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo told reporters.

Last Mod: 15 Eylül 2017, 17:31
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