Madrid orders Catalan police to crack down on officials organising poll

Protesters pack the University square in Barcelona Spain Sunday Sept. 24. Thousands of Catalan separatists are rallying in public squares in Barcelona and other towns in support of a disputed referendum on independence of the northeastern region from S

The Catalan regional government, which plans to declare independence within 48 hours of a "yes" victory, maintained on Tuesday the vote will go ahead and it sent out notifications to Catalans to man polling booths across the region.

US President Donald Trump said it would be "foolish" for Catalans to try to leave Spain, urging the country to remain united ahead of a banned independence referendum Sunday.

Speaking days after Spanish police arrested 14 Catalan officials, seized nearly 10m ballot papers and chartered ferries to accommodate the thousands of extra police officers who are being sent to Catalonia to stop the referendum, Maza rejected suggestions that the government was being heavy-handed.

A "yes" vote is likely, given that most of the 40 percent of Catalans who polls show support independence are expected to cast ballots while most of those against it are not.

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The Spanish government says it has systematically dismantled the logistics Catalonia's government put in place to hold the referendum and any result would no longer be meaningful. "Vote for the future of Catalonia!".

Oliver Jones from Capital Economics said: "In Spain, a referendum on Catalan independence is set to occur on 1st October".

Catalonia's separatists have pledged to hold the vote regardless.

Sources from the ongoing investigation into the referendum bid told Efe news that among the sites seized by police was that of the Catalonian National Assembly (ANC), an organisation that promotes the region's independence from Spain which later confirmed, however, that its web page was still accessible through its European Union domain name (.eu).

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The independence movement is widespread enough that it is unlikely to dissipate if the regional government fails to convert a "yes" vote into a split from Spain.

Madrid argues that the referendum is illegal as it goes against the Constitution.

"I really think the people of Catalonia would stay with Spain", Trump said as he offered support to visiting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at the White House Tuesday. But a large majority of people are in favor of being given the right to vote on the matter, making Spain's heavy-handed approach all the more politically risky.

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