Rajoy visits Trump in Washington, Seeking Support Against Referendum

Sept. 26th, 2017

 Donald Trump at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2013. Photocredit: Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2013. Photocredit: Gage Skidmore

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy arrived in Washington D.C. today in his first meeting with President Trump since the latter took office last November. Among subjects discussed, such as fortifying bilateral trade relations and continuing the fight against terrorism, the impending Catalan referendum was the focal point of the meeting. With 5 days remaining until the vote and Spain "in its gravest constitutional crisis in decades", Rajoy sought the support of the American president concerning the 'illegal' vote.

In a joint press conference at 2 p.m. (8 p.m. CET), Trump expressed his support for Rajoy's agenda. "I think that Spain is a great country, and it should remain united", he said, while avoiding any direct comment on his stance concerning the referendum. Rajoy, on his part, stressed the importance of Spain's partnership with the United States, while noting that "the [Catalan] referendum would be illegal, if held".  

Trump's remarks follow recent comments made by U.S. Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert that the U.S. has no position on the referendum.  

With One Week Remaining, Spanish Political Scientist Projects Referendum Results

Sept. 25th, 2017

The Spanish political scientist Juan José Domínguez published today a survey on the projected results of the Oct. 1st referendum. In a poll that conducted 3000 interviews, half of which were carried out randomly in municipalities across Catalonia and another 1500 in 4 municipalities that "was most representative and significant in election results since 1996", the survey predicted a turnout rate of 82%, with 53% voting for yes, and 47% voting for no. The original can be found here


Poll Shows 'Yes' To Win Referendum With 60% Participation

Sept. 17th, 2017

 Participants during the demonstrations on  La Diada.  Photo by Albert Han

Participants during the demonstrations on La Diada. Photo by Albert Han

A poll conducted by the Institut Opinometre and published today by the Catalan newspaper Ara shows a projected win for independence. The survey, carried out immediately following the national day celebrations (La Diada) and the declaration of the referendum as 'illegal' by the Constitutional Court, found that 60.2% of respondents would vote in the Oct. 1st referendum, while 30.3% would not. A further 9.5% was unsure, or chose not to comment. Among those who were 'sure' of voting, 69.9% would vote in favor of independence, and 14.3% would reject it, while 15.8% would cast a blank ballot. 

The result shows that the anticipated voter turnout in the referendum has fallen since the last poll conducted in July by the Center of Studies on Public Opinion (Centre d'Estudis d'Opinio), when 67.5% said they would participate. However, the support for independence has not decreased, as 62.4% had responded in favor of yes in July, despite the illegality of the referendum and measures taken by the central government in Madrid to stop the referendum. 

With Colau as Leader, Mayors Throw Support Behind Referendum

Sept. 16th, 2017

More than 700 mayors gathered in Barcelona today in a show of defiance against threats from the Attorney's General Office in Madrid. The gathering of mayors affirmed their support to hold the Oct. 1st Referendum, despite comments made by the Attorney General, José Manuel Maza, earlier this week that threaten their arrest should they defy any orders from the central government in Madrid. 

The pro-referendum mayors were welcomed this morning at the City Hall of Barcelona by Ada Colau. Since her agreement with Puigdemont on Thursday that would allow Barcelona to participate in the referendum, she has taken on a leading role for other mayors across Catalonia. "This city hall is always your home, now more than ever," she said, as mayors raised their scepters of office in agreement.

The event was followed by a gathering at the Gothic patio in the Catalan government's office (Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya). Following speeches made by several mayors that expressed their support for the referendum, Puigdemont affirmed the event as "an expression of unity and determination".  

With 15 days remaining until the Oct. 1st referendum, Puigdemont and the leaders of the pro-independence movement have solidified their determination to hold the vote despite Madrid's warnings on the consequences of an illegal referendum. 




President of European Commission: "We Will Respect A Catalan Vote"

Sept. 15th, 2017

 Juncker at the EPP Congress in Dublin in 2014. 

Juncker at the EPP Congress in Dublin in 2014. 

The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, expressed his opinion regarding the Oct. 1st referendum in a live interview with three young European YouTubers. When asked if the commission will recognize the result of the Oct. 1st referendum, Juncker noted that "the commission does not involve itself in internal debates," but that "if there were to be a 'yes' vote in favor of Catalan independence, then we will respect that". 

Juncker noted, however, that "we [i.e. the European Commission] have always said that we were going to respect the rulings of the Spanish Constitutional Court and the decisions of the Spanish Parliament". Even if Catalonia should become independent, it will not immediately become an EU member, and must "follow the same accession procedure as those who joined in 2004". 

Juncker's comments come as both the Catalan independence leaders and officials in Madrid have appealed to the EU as a mediator in the dispute on Catalonia's sovereignty. President Puigdemont and several officials hosted a conference in the EU Parliament in January that made the case for Catalonia's independence. The Spanish government, on the other hand, has insisted on the referendum to remain an internal affair.

Attorney General Office Orders Interrogation of Pro-Referendum Mayors

Sept. 15th, 2017

 The Attorney General Office in Madrid. 

The Attorney General Office in Madrid. 

The office of the Attorney General of Spain has ordered its local offices in Catalonia to investigate mayors collaborating in the Oct. 1st referendum, according to Spanish newspaper El Periódico. As of Sept. 14th, more than 700 mayors of towns and cities across Catalonia have signed an agreement pledging their support to carry out the independence vote in their respective municipalities. The complete list can be found here).

The Attorney General, José Manuel Maza, also allowed the Catalan police force to detain mayors who refuse to cooperate and have them appear before the Attorney General's office. Maza warned that mayors guilty of collaboration could face a charge of disobedience, perversion of justice, and the misuse of public funds if they participate in a referendum deemed as 'illegal' by the Tribunal Court of Spain. The charges can carry up to 8 years of prison and 20 years of ban from holding public office, according to Maza in his letter. 

As of Sept. 15th, 5 mayors have been cited to appear before the Attorney General's Office, as more citations are expected next week. 



Mayor Colau: Barcelona Will Be Able to Vote in Referendum

Sept. 14th, 2017

The regional government of Catalonia has reached an agreement with the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, to allow Barcelona to participate in the Oct. 1st Referendum. While details of the negotiation are still unclear, the announcement was made by Colau this afternoon via Twitter:

 Translation: "We fulfill our promise: Barcelona will be able to participate without putting its institutions or public servants in risk". 

Translation: "We fulfill our promise: Barcelona will be able to participate without putting its institutions or public servants in risk". 

Colau had remained neutral despite the Generalitat's call for mayors across Catalonia to pledge their participation in the referendum. Though Colau supports the referendum, she voiced her concerns over the risk of punishment from Madrid or participating in the vote. Facing pressure from authorities in Madrid and calls for the right to vote from demonstrators, Colau was caught in the ever-growing dispute on the referendum. 

 The news comes as relief for the Catalan regional government: President Puigdemont retweeted Colau shortly after, saying "good news!". Barcelona's participation in the referendum is seen by many to be critical to the referendum campaign. The Catalan capital possesses more than 20% of the entire population of Catalonia; without its support, the referendum's legitimacy would have been cast in doubt, even if it were to take place.

Judge Orders Closure of Referendum Website

Sept. 13th, 2017

A judge has ordered the closure of the official referendum website, according to the Spanish newspaper El País. The Guardia Civil has appeared to deliver the warrant to the website's host, CDMon, located in the coastal town of Malgrat de Mar. As of this afternoon, the website is down. 

Update: A version of the referendum website is back up again, available as the following. The group responsible for it is Alerta Solidària, a leftist pro-independence group connected to the Left Independence movement (Esquerra Independentista) of Catalonia. 

Catalan District Attorney's Office Orders Police Forces to Stop Referendum

Sept. 13th, 2017


The District Attorney's Office of Catalonia has given orders to the three police force units in Catalonia - the Civil Guards (Guardia Civil), the National Police (Policía Nacional), and the Police Force of Catalonia (Los Mossos d´Esquadra) - to adopt necessary measures in order to prevent the celebration of the Oct. 1st referendum. This includes the "confiscation of ballot boxes, electoral envelopes, instruction manuals for electoral commissions, election materials, campaign materials, and any other material that could distribute, promote, or celebrate the ilegal referendum". Any disobedience, the Office writes, would be considered a crime and is punishable. 

This order follows the pronouncement from the Tribunal Court of Spain on Sept. 7th that the Oct. 1st referendum in Catalonia is 'illegal' under the Spanish Constitution. The police forces are expected to comply with the order, and maj. Josep Lluís Trapero, the highest ranking officer in Los Mossos, has sent an internal order this afternoon encouraging officers to comply. 

09.12 News Roundup: High Turnout for La Diada; Tribunal Court Orders Police Forces to Stop Referendum

The Daily Roundup surveys the most important headlines of the day surrounding the Referendum. Sources in Spanish and Catalan are included and summarized wherever possible.

  • The National Day of Catalonia, La Diada saw a large turnout of demonstrators yesterday in Barcelona calling for the Oct. 1st referendum to take place. Estimates on the number of participants varied widely; one report from the (Guardia Civil) estimated at one million, while the Spanish government representative in Catalonia estimated the number between 300,000 and 350,000. Sources agreed, however, that the turnout was lower compared to previous years. [Source: El Periódico]
  • The High Tribunal Court of Catalonia ordered the Catalan state police force (Los Mossos d'Esquadra), the Civil Guard, and the National Police force (Policia Nacional) to seize all materials connected with the Oct. 1st referendum, including "ballot boxes, envelopes, instruction manuals, election materials, or any material for the promotion or execution of the referendum". So far, only Los Mossos have refused to comment upon this order. This follows raids reported last week of Civil Guards who were searching for printed ballots.