ONE of Spain’s biggest political crisis since democracy returned is set to reach a head in Sunday’s Catalan independence vote.
Thousands of police reinforcements, including around 25 from Mallorca, are heading from all over Spain to Barcelona with authorities fearing widespread public disorder.
Some 6,000 officers are to be housed in cruise ships moored off the Catalan capital and Tarragona ahead of the illegal referendum.
This week, in scenes reminiscent of soldiers leaving for war, crowds of flag-waving supporters around Spain cheered Guardia Civil convoys en route to Barcelona.
Balearic president Francina Armengol has denied being pro-independence in a heated parliamentary debate with PP officials, but attacked Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s stance.
“The PP government despises the autonomies,” said the Socialist PSIB general secretary.
She added Rajoy was ‘wrong’ to seek ‘only a judicial and police solution, and not a political solution’.
Sunday’s planned vote has been declared illegal by the Constitutional Court, with the Catalan government defying an order to half the referendum.
Meanwhile, PSIB spokesman Andreu Alcover has backed the idea of a referendum agreed between Madrid and the Catalan government.
“The referendum should be agreed and come with guarantees. If it is not, is is no good at all,” said Alcover.
“We maintain that the solution should be a dialogue without conditions or vetoes. I think all the PSOE agrees with that.”
This month, there were tense scenes in Barcelona as 40,000 took to the streets after the arrests of 12 Catalan government officials involved in the referendum plans.
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont slammed ‘this totalitarian and anti-democratic attitude by the Spanish state’, while Rajoy has said he will ‘stop at nothing’ to halt the vote.
Catalans are sharply divided over ceding from Spain, although an overwhelming majority of those polled want to vote on the matter.