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Spain's Guardia Civil raids Catalan government offices

Spain's Guardia Civil raids Catalan government offices

The Spanish government has intervened in the Catalan government, head of the region Carles Puigdemont said on Wednesday after police raids of local government offices and the arrest of at least one high-ranking Catalan official.

A senior Catalan politician - Joseph Maria Jove, number two to Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras - was also detained, according to Spanish daily El Mundo.

The conflict is hardening between the central government based in Madrid and the independence movement led from Barcelona.

Spanish police also raided several government offices in Barcelona looking to confiscate election material linked to the referendum.

It's all kicking off in Catalonia, the northeastern region of Spain that's preparing for a referendum on its independence at the start of October.

Eight other public officials have been arrested in raids on Catalonia's foreign affairs department, social affairs office, information technology centre and tax agency.

Puigdemont, who faces criminal charges for organizing the referendum, has said there were over 6,000 ballot boxes ready for the vote.

The Interior Ministry in Madrid would not confirm any arrests, citing an "ongoing operation".

The Spanish government called the bill illegal and challenged the legislation in the Constitutional Court. So far, an estimated 700 Catalan municipalities have said they will offer their public buildings, such as schools, to be used as polling centers on October 1.

Finance minister Cristobal Montoro signed an order late on Tuesday that limits new credit and requires central authorities' supervision for every payment of non-essential services in Catalonia, the ministry said.

Catalonia, which represents a fifth of Spain's 1.1-trillion-euro economy, has some 900 mayors.

Nearly immediately after the news, hundreds of Catalans gathered to angrily protest the raids outside government offices in the region's capital, Barcelona.

He added: "This is a judicial operation which is being done to guarantee ... that the law is respected".

The raids have caused mixed reaction with scuffles breaking out between police and pro-independence protesters as well as criticism of the national government's attempts to stop a vote in the wealthy north-east region of Spain.

Catalonia's leader has accused Madrid of imposing a "de facto state of emergency" in the Spanish region and said the arrests were a "shameful attack" on its autonomy.

Catalonian secessionists complain that appointments to the court are made by the largest political parties in Madrid, and are therefore not independent.


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