(Vatican Radio) Catalonia’s president has called for international mediation, after a violent crackdown by Spanish police trying to block an independence referendum on Sunday.
Listen to Giulia Cirillo’s report:
It’s been a subdued start to the week in Catalonia, as the region begins to process yesterday’s events and prepare for what might lie ahead.
Over three million people, or 56 percent of eligible voters, took part in Sunday’s referendum, which had been declared illegal by the Spanish government and its constitutional court. According to the latest estimates, however, only some two million votes will be counted, as many ballot boxes were seized by police.
Polling stations occupied
Last week, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy drafted in additional forces in a bid to prevent the referendum from going ahead. In response, Catalonian citizens occupied schools designated as polling stations, in order to keep them open over the weekend.
On Sunday morning, the mood on the ground was nervous, but determined. Particularly striking was the number of elderly and infirm who turned out to vote with walking sticks, in wheelchairs, and even with oxygen supplies.
Hundreds of voters injured
At many polling stations, local residents gathered before dawn to defend ballot boxes from potential incursions. And this proved to be a necessary precaution: as soon as voting opened at 9am, reports started circulating of stations broken into and dismantled. By the end of the day, over 840 people were reported injured by police, while footage of voters being beaten, kicked, pepper-sprayed and shot with rubber bullets was widely shared on social media.
Protests and strike planned
Today, the violence has drawn international criticism, though Spain’s vice-president has praised the police force for its professionality. Prime Minister Rajoy has said yesterday showed the strength of his democracy and the loyalty of its public servants, while also stating that no referendum has taken place.
Now, Catalonia waits for the last of its votes to be counted, with preliminary results suggesting a landslide vote for secession. With demonstrations taking place across the region to protest yesterday’s violence and a massive strike announced for tomorrow, this looks set to be a long week.