Spanish police officers have raided three Catalan regional government departments and arrested 12 senior officials as Madrid steps up its battle to stop an independence referendum being held in less than two weeks’ time. On Wednesday morning, a spokesman for the regional government said Guardia Civil officers were searching the Barcelona offices of the presidency and the ministries of economic affairs and foreign relations. He also confirmed that Josep Maria Jové, the secretary general of economic affairs and an aide to the Catalan vice-president, was among those detained – apparently in connection with the launch of web pages related to the referendum. Catalan ministers are due to hold an emergency meeting. Police and judicial authorities gave no details on the operation, saying a judge had placed a secrecy order on it.
Amid escalating tensions, Spain’s interior ministry also announced it was cancelling leave for all the Guardia Civil and national police officers tasked with stopping the referendum going ahead. In a statement, it said the affected officers would have to be available between 20 September and 5 October, but added the period could be extended if necessary.
The raids come a day after the Guardia Civil confiscated referendum documents from the offices of a private delivery firm in the Catalan city of Terrassa. More than 1.5m referendum leaflets and posters have also been seized.
Several hundred protesters blocked Barcelona’s Gran Via, near Jové’s office, on Wednesday morning, chanting: “Independence!” and “We will vote!”