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People's Daily Online

Spain's PM Rajoy says there was no Catalan independence referendum

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 09:34, October 02, 2017

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Sunday gave a televised speech defending government actions following violent clashes which left hundreds injured in a banned referendum.

The prime minister said "today there has not been a self-determination referendum" and that "our state maintains its strength and reacts and acts with all its resources against any kind of provocation."

Rajoy also defended the decision to send in police force to stop the voting, which was earlier deemed illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court.

"My first obligation was to obey the law and to make sure it was obeyed," he said, adding that security forces had acted with "firmness and serenity" in stopping the Catalan referendum.

He said that the referendum had produced "attitudes that should be repugnant to anyone who believes in democracy," and blamed Catalan leaders for the violence.

"I want to make it clear that the only people who are responsible are those who have venerated the law," said Rajoy, who insisted his government had "done what we had to do."

"We are the government of Spain and I am the prime minister of Spain. We acted with the law and only with the law and showed our democratic state has the resources to react to this attack on our unity."

Online videos posted Sunday showed that police officers armed with batons clashed with voters at polling stations in Catalonia.

According to Catalan health authorities, more than 800 people received treatment at hospitals after being injured by police during Sunday's disputed referendum. Two people are in serious conditions.

Meanwhile, Spain's Interior Ministry said 33 police required treatment as a result of the clashes.

Local reports said more than 5.3 million people had been called to cast their vote in the referendum.

About 2.26 million people took part in the banned referendum, with 2.02 million voted for independence, Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull said in a press briefing late Sunday.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, speaking shortly after Rajoy's speech on TV, said Catalonia's citizens "have earned the right to have an independent state in the form of a republic."

The region, with a population of 7.5 million, accounts for about a fifth of Spain's economic output. Residents in the region mostly speak Catalan, a language that some believe is a dialect of Spanish but others argue to be a totally different one.

The region, discontent of the "disproportionate support" it has received from the Spanish government considering its contribution to the national economy, attempted to stage an independence referendum in November 2014, only suspending the move following stern gestures from the government and the Constitutional Court.

"My government, in the next few days will send the results of today's vote to the Catalan Parliament, where the sovereignty of our people lies, so that it can act in accordance with the law of the referendum," Puigdemont said.

The regional leader also urged the European Union to stop looking "the other way" as leaders of most EU members declined to take stance on the referendum, only saying it is Spain's internal affairs and political parties should resolve their differences via dialogue.

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