Spain’s struggle to stop Catalonia’s separatist referendum overcame a potential body blow over the weekend as the region’s police force acceded to demands it take more direction from the central government in Madrid. At first, Catalan interior chief Joaquim Forn said on Saturday his rebel administration rejected a national prosecutor’s order for central-government coordination of police in the run-up to the Oct. 1 vote. Hours later, Catalan police managers issued an internal memo saying that they’ll keep obeying orders from prosecutors and judges. While that decision defused a potential showdown between security forces in Spain’s largest regional economy, tension ratcheted back up. Leaders of CUP, an anarchist party represented in Parliament, insisted on a general strike from Oct. 3. On Sunday, civic groups leading the independence movement in the streets demonstrated and handed out posters and voting slips without Catalan police intervening to confiscate them, as ordered.
“We are prepared for a very tough week,” said Jordi Sanchez, the head of that civic group, the Catalan National Assembly. “The state’s reaction will be even tougher than we have seen so far,” he said in an interview. “The state wants incidents to happen so they have an excuse to step up intervention. Our task is to keep people calm.”
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is dealing with the nation’s biggest constitutional challenge in three decades without resorting to a nuclear approach allowed under 155 Article of the 1978 document to suspend the region’s semi-autonomy. His efforts to snuff out the illegal referendum before it can be held are being supported by prosecutors and the constitutional Court.