Spanish government apologises for bloody Catalonia independence vote

Published: 07 October 2017

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The Spanish government has apologised for police violence against voters in Sunday’s bloody Catalan independence referendum, but says the regions leaders are to blame for letting the vote go ahead.

Catalans flooded to the polls to vote 90 percent in favour of the region’s independence from Spain, and riot police raided the stations and bloodied hundreds with rubber bullets and batons in response.

“When I saw those images, and knowing that people were hit [and] shoved… all I can do is apologise on behalf of the officers who intervened,” Enric Millo, the government’s most senior representative in Catalonia, told local media station TV3.

Spain’s education minister, Inigo Mendez de Vigo, later issued a more guarded apology, saying: “If there were incidents and people were injured, then obviously we’re sorry.”

But, like Millo, he said that the regional government was ultimately responsible for the situation for letting the vote go ahead, and Spain’s “co-existence is broken” with Catalonia.

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Catalonia's president Carles Puigdemont is attempting to present the results of the referendum in parliament. Image: Reuters 

Of the 2.3 million Catalans who voted in the referendum, 90 percent voted in favour of independence, while 7.8 percent voted against it and two percent of ballot papers were left blank.

The regional government said that about 770,000 people who turned up to vote didn’t get the chance to, because polling stations were shut down by Spanish police.

“We have won the right to be an independent country,” the former Catalan president, Artur Mas, told The Financial Times.

“The question now is how do we exercise this right, and here obviously there are decisions to be taken. And these decisions must have one objective in mind: this is not just about proclaiming independence but about actually becoming an independent country.”

Catalonia’s president, Carles Puigdemont, has asked to appear in Catalan parliament next Thursday to “report on the current political situation” and put the referendum results to MPs.

The move could potentially see the region’s declaration of independence come to fruition.

However, Spain’s constitutional court has already put a ban on a similar session planned for Monday, and says that any session seen to violate the rights of MPs who oppose the split from Spain would be “null” and parliament’s leaders could face criminal action if they ignore the order.