The Latest: Spain hires ferries for more police in Catalonia
Sep. 21, 2017
MADRID (AP) — The Latest on independence efforts in Spain's Catalonia region (all times local):
Unions representing Spanish security forces say authorities have hired three ferries to accommodate some of the additional police officers dispatched to Catalonia for the Oct. 1 independence referendum.
AUGC union spokesman Juan Fernandez said the Civil Guard presence in the northeastern Spanish region will be doubled with about 2,000 additional agents. Spain's National Police force has dispatched around 1,200 officers to join the nearly 3,000 permanently stationed in Catalonia, a union representative said, although numbers could increase.
Dock workers in Barcelona and the nearby Tarragona port say they are declining to service three ferries vessels until Spain's central government and regional Catalan authorities resolve the conflict over the vote through a "peaceful and democratic" way, according to a statement by their union.
Spain's Interior Ministry didn't respond to repeated requests for comment.
Spain's Constitutional Court says it will fine 22 members of an electoral board overseeing Catalonia's planned independence referendum between 6,000 ($7,200) and 12,000 euros a day as long as they continue disobeying court rulings suspending the Oct. 1 vote.
A court statement Thursday said the fines would start Saturday unless the members demonstrate they comply with its recent rulings that suspended laws covering their appointment, the authorization for the referendum and the transitional period should Catalonia secede from Spain.
Seven central board members are to be fined 12,000 euros a day while 15 provincial members have to pay 6,000 euros a day.
Spain's major political forces are calling on Catalan leaders to drop the referendum bid, echoing Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's warning that "greater harm" lies ahead if they don't call off the Oct. 1 vote.
Leaders of the main opposition Socialist party and the business-friendly Ciudadanos (Citizens) party are demanding a U-turn from Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont. He has vowed to go ahead with the vote despite a Constitutional Court suspension and an increased crackdown on its preparations.
Adding a financial incentive for the cancellation, Spain's economy minister, Luis de Guindos, offered to open negotiations on better funding for Catalonia, one of the main demands by disgruntled Catalans. De Guindos told the Financial Times newspaper that "once independence plans are dropped, we can talk."
World No. 1 tennis player Rafael Nadal has spoken out about the planned referendum for Catalan secession from Spain — though he declined to take sides, saying his English skills makes it impossible to properly explain what is on his mind.
Speaking in Prague on Thursday, the tennis star said "I can't imagine Spain without Catalonia and Catalonia without Spain. I don't want to see it. But that's something that is happening."
Nadal, who was born in Mallorca, Spain, said he loves the Catalan region and would like to see both sides seriously discuss the matter to find a good resolution. Nadal added he believes that's what most of his fellow Spaniards want.
He says: "We don't want fights, we don't want problems I believe we are much better together and stronger."
Thousands of protesters have gathered outside Catalonia's judiciary body in Barcelona to demand the release of a dozen officials arrested in connection with a planned independence referendum that Spain's central authorities say is illegal.
The crowd has filled a square the size of two soccer fields, with some people climbing onto lampposts while chanting "We will vote!" and "Hello democracy."
Catalan pro-independence civic groups have called for long-term street protests against a surprise police crackdown a day earlier.
Police arrested at least 12 people, mostly Catalan government officials suspected of coordinating the referendum, and seized 10 million ballot papers.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has warned Catalan officials of "greater harm" if they don't call off the Oct. 1 referendum, but the regional government has vowed to go ahead.
A pro-independence civic group in Catalonia is calling on residents to begin a long-term street protest against Spanish authorities' surprise crackdown on the region's plans to hold a secession referendum.
The Catalan National Assembly's call came hours after Civil Guard police arrested at least 12 people, mostly Catalan government officials, suspected of coordinating the referendum.
The group, a driving force behind the secession movement, urged people to gather at noon Thursday outside the region's justice tribunal and bring tents if needed.
Assembly spokesman Adria Alsina said they would stay until "all the prisoners are released."
Wednesday's arrests triggered demonstrations and some minor disturbances in Barcelona and other Catalan cities overnight.
Regional police had to protect Civil Guard agents as they left one raided building.
Spain says the referendum would be illegal.