Spanish police arrested Catalonia’s junior economy minister Josep Maria Jove on Wednesday as part of a raid on regional government offices ahead of an unauthorised referendum on independence, sources within the Catalan government said.
Spanish police entered offices of the Catalan region’s economy, interior, foreign affairs, welfare, telecommunications and tax departments, the sources said.
El Pais newspaper said 14 people in total had been arrested.
On Tuesday, Spain’s Civil Guard, a national police force, seized over 45,000 envelopes packed in cardboard boxes that the Catalan government was ready to send to notify people around the region about the referendum.
The first of hundreds of Catalan mayors were also forced to appear before the state prosecutor on Tuesday after they said they would back the referendum.
As part of attempts to prevent a vote, police last week raided a weekly Catalan newspaper suspected of printing ballots
Control of Catalonia’s finances
Meanwhile, Spain has taken control of Catalonia’s finances to prevent funds being used for the independence referendum which the central government says is illegal and cannot take place.
Madrid announced Friday it would take over the payment of essential services and public workers’ salaries in Catalonia to prevent it from spending money on the referendum slated for October 1.
Catalonia’s pro-separatist government challenged the measure in Spain’s Supreme Court but a court spokeswoman told AFP it was “in force” and would not be suspended while judges rule on its legality.
“It is a de facto suspension of Catalonia’s financial autonomy,” said Alain Cuenca, an expert on the regional financing at the University of Zaragoza who opposes Catalan independence.
Spain’s regions pay taxes to the central government and are then given a quota to spend on health care, education and public infrastructure.
Catalonia, which is roughly the size of Belgium and home to around 7.5 million people, receives about 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion) a month from Madrid to cover essential services.
Madrid announced the measure after the Catalan government said it would no longer comply with a request made in July that it provides weekly accounts of its spending to ensure no money was being used to stage the contested referendum.