The Latest: Spanish king slams Catalan authorities
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Latest on Catalonia’s disputed independence referendum and Spain’s response (all times local):
Spain’s King Felipe VI says that Catalan authorities have deliberately bent the law with “irresponsible conduct” and that the Spanish state needs to ensure constitutional order and the rule of law in Catalonia.
Delivering an address to the nation by television, the king said that the bid by authorities in the northeastern region to push ahead with independence has “undermined coexistence” in Catalonia.
“Today, Catalan society is fractured and confronted,” Felipe said, referring to the political crisis as “very serious moments for our democratic life.”
He said that the state needs to ensure Spain’s constitutional order and the correct functioning of Catalan institutions and rule of law.
Spain’s conservative government has said it will respond with “all necessary measures” to counter the Catalan defiance, and is holding talks with national opposition leaders to find multi-partisan consensus on the response, which could include suspending the region’s self-government.
Tens of thousands of people are joining marches across Barcelona in an outcry against police violence that has united political views that only one week ago seemed irreconcilable.
Separatist groups and unions had initially called for strikes to be held on Tuesday in support for Catalan leaders pushing ahead with a declaration of independence from Spain. But many non-separatists were also drawn to the streets following a crackdown on a referendum vote on Sunday.
The main national unions, CCOO and UGT, rejected the strike but told workers to join protests.
In Barcelona’s Catalonia and University squares, a sea of demonstrators waved flags, most of them “esteladas,” embraced by those seeking secession, but there were also plenty of Spanish national flags.
Among many banners displayed, one read “Stop violence, #CataloniaIsComing” using hashtags popular in social media, and another one wondered “Where are you Europe?”
One of the biggest groups concentrated around the Spanish national police headquarters in Barcelona, where protesters called them “occupying forces” and called for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to resign.
The Royal House of Spain says that King Felipe VI is delivering an address to the nation in a televised message on Tuesday evening.
A press official in the Royal House’s communications team couldn’t confirm if the king would be talking about the crisis in the northeastern Catalonia region but confirmed that the address would take place at 9 p.m. (1900GMT). The official spoke anonymously in line with internal protocol.
Unscheduled addresses by kings in Spain have not been common but both Felipe VI and his father, King Juan Carlos I have delivered addresses in moments of high political tension or in the wake of terror attacks.
Years of confrontation between Catalan separatists and the central authorities led Sunday to a disputed referendum on independence that Spain considers illegal and that police cracked down on, leaving hundreds of injured.
Anti-capitalist groups are forcing workers to join a mass labor stoppage in Barcelona, in protest at Sunday’s police actions during a referendum on Catalonia’s secession from Spain.
While thousands of peaceful protesters demonstrated against the confiscation of ballot boxes and charges on unarmed civilians, hundreds of anti-capitalist activists drifted to the city center and intimidated workers, shoppers and tourists in order to enforce the closedown of department stores, local shops, markets and restaurants.
Dispersed in groups of 50-100, they chanted aggressively at overwhelmed waitresses, pulled down shutters, and threatened workers and owners.
“I was told it would be a 24-hour stoppage for public workers, so we decided to open part-time to show our support,” said 68-year-old restaurateur, Carmen Gomez. “But we are closing down for good now. They said it was for our own safety.”
Spain’s interior minister is accusing the pro-independence Catalan government of encouraging protests against Spanish police posted to towns in the region, saying they represent “totalitarianism” and “hatred.”
Juan Ignacio Zoido said Tuesday Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont is responsible for the protests after demanding police leave the region following their violent crackdown on his attempt to hold an independence referendum Sunday.
Protests have been staged against police in at least three towns, as well as in Barcelona, where thousands have protested at the gates of the national police downtown office.
In one town, Pineda del Mar, a town official said they were asking hotels to stop lodging police sent there. The town later denied this.
Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria accused Pineda del Mar town hall of “mobster behavior.”
Thousands of people are demonstrating in Barcelona, as labor unions and grassroots pro-independence groups urge workers to hold strikes in protest at what they say was police brutality during a referendum on Catalonia’s secession from Spain.
Protests started before noon outside polling stations where police action to prevent the vote two days earlier had resulted in the confiscation of ballot boxes and police charging at unarmed civilians.
Draped in a pro-independence flag, 19-year-old communications student Pol Subira headed toward a packed University Square “in order to protest against this brutal repression and fight for the right to decide our future.”
“I hope this helps politicians reach an agreement.” Subira said. “All this repression has achieved is to produce more independents, like a factory. The government’s violence is a guarantee for independence to triumph.”
The famed Barcelona soccer club and the two other Catalan clubs in the Spanish soccer league are joining a strike to protest the Spanish government’s actions in Catalonia’s independence vote.
Barcelona says none of its professional or youth teams are practicing on Tuesday and the club headquarters is closed. The Girona soccer team also suspended practice and Espanyol is having players undergo physical training behind closed doors.
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique, one of the most outspoken supporters of Catalans, was harassed by fans Monday when he reported to Spain’s national team training camp in Madrid ahead of upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
Police had to intervene as fans chanted and held cards against him.
Spain coach Julen Lopetegui told the COPE radio station the central defender remains motivated despite the abuse from fans. He praised Pique’s commitment to the national team and said there is no reason not to have him on the squad.
Spain’s top official in Catalonia says he laments the violence that left hundreds of civilians and police injured during a disputed independence referendum but blames the regional separatist government for “exposing citizens to danger.”
Enric Millo said Tuesday that “nothing of this would have happened if the government wouldn’t have declared itself in rebellion, breaking the orders of the courts and lying and tricking people.”
He said Spain’s National Police and Civil Guard anti-riot squads broke into schools designated as polling stations when it was clear that the regional Mossos d’Esquadra police, controlled by the Catalan government, was not carrying out a judge’s orders to impede the voting.
He also accused the grassroots groups driving the independence bid, the National Catalan Assembly and Omnium Cultural, and pro-independence mayors of “plotting to break the law.”
Several hundred Barcelona port workers have held a demonstration outside the regional headquarters of Spain’s ruling Popular Party chanting slogans against government policies and the alleged brutality of police during a disputed weekend referendum on Catalonia’s secession that left hundreds of people injured.
The protest came as several small labor unions and grassroots pro-independence groups urged workers throughout Catalonia to go on partial or full-day strikes to protest the police actions during Sunday’s voting.
The port workers threw wads of unused ballot papers from the vote into the air in the protest outside the party’s office in downtown Barcelona.
Regional police placed barriers outside the building to stop the crowd getting near the offices.
The protest lasted more than an hour.
Credit ratings agency Moody’s has warned that the increased tensions over the Spanish region of Catalonia’s push for independence could hurt the country’s overall debt worthiness.
The agency said the “ratcheting-up of tensions has negative credit implications” that could be worsened if Catalonia’s regional government declares independence after claiming victory in a local referendum they organized that was deemed illegal by Spain.
Moody’s said that the probability of Catalan independence remains low, mainly because it remains unclear that a majority of Catalans actually want independence. Participation in Sunday’s vote was reportedly only 42 percent. It expects the sides to negotiate a deal for greater powers for the region.
The agency noted that Catalonia represents about a fifth of Spain’s economy, with a high per capita GDP. So independence would seriously affect Spain’s public finances.
A prominent leader of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has condemned the bloc’s failure to clearly condemn the police violence that marred Sunday’s contested independence vote in the Spanish region of Catalonia.
Nigel Farage said “it is quite extraordinary to realize that this Union is prepared to turn a blind eye” to events in Catalonia.
He told EU lawmakers that never “did I think we would see the police of a member state of the Union injuring 900 people in an attempt to stop them going out to vote.”
Farage attacked European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker for his silence about it during a speech to the assembly Tuesday, saying: “What do we get from Mister Juncker today? Not a dicky-bird.”
Cyprus says Spain’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity need to be respected, arguing that the referendum on Catalonia’s independence was carried out “in violation” of the Spanish constitution.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry of the internationally recognized south of the Mediterranean island nation said Spain’s unity must be upheld as well as its constitutional order.
The ministry said “dialogue and restraint are only the way forward.”
Cyprus itself was split into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and the Greek Cypriot south when Turkey invaded in 1974 following a coup by supporters of union the Greece.
The latest round of talks aimed at reunifying the island collapsed last July.
Turkey’s foreign ministry spokesman says respect for Spain’s territorial integrity is a main “principle.”
Huseyin Muftuoglu said in a statement issued early Tuesday that it was important that both sides abide by Spain’s laws and avoid violence.
His comment follows Sunday’s independence referendum in Catalonia that Spain’s courts deemed illegal. More than 800 people were injured as riot police clashed with unarmed civilians trying to cast their ballots.
Muftuoglu said Turkey believes Spain will overcome “such tests.”
Turkey, which is battling a Kurdish insurgency, has strongly opposed a referendum on independence by the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in neighboring Iraq, threatening economic sanctions and military action.
Labor unions and grassroots pro-independence groups are urging workers to hold partial or full-day strikes throughout Catalonia to protest alleged brutality by police during a referendum on the region’s secession from Spain that left hundreds of people injured.
The strike call comes as Catalan leaders ponder a possible declaration of independence this week following the referendum that Spain said was illegal and invalid.
Port workers were being called to demonstrate Tuesday outside the regional headquarters of Spain’s ruling Popular Party while firefighters planned a rally outside the Interior Ministry’s regional office in the Catalan capital of Barcelona.
Protests were also to be staged outside polling stations where police acted with force to try to prevent Sunday’s poll being held.