Spain's Interior Ministry began coordinating all police efforts Saturday in Catalonia, a tactic created to halt the region's referendum on secession following tensions with the regional police force controlled by the pro-independence Catalan government.
Spain's post-dictatorship Constitution only allows the central government to call a referendum on secession and establishes that all Spaniards must have a say in a vote on the country's sovereignty.
Since Spain's Constitutional Court suspended the Catalan referendum law two weeks ago, it have been the Catalan and Catalan-speaking officers of the Mossos who have kept the peace. Spain will deploy police reinforcements to Catalonia to help maintain order if an independence referendum pledged by Catalan officials but opposed by the national government goes ahead, officials said Friday.
The region has about 5.5 million eligible voters, and polls consistently show the region's inhabitants favour a referendum but are roughly evenly divided over independence from Spain.
Catalonia's distinct language and traditions have underpinned.
The Catalan police are the largest police force in the region and have been criticized for not being aggressive enough in cracking down on the October 1 vote.
"They will be tasked with surveillance of public space and maintaining order and they will act in case the illegal referendum is maintained", the interior ministry said in a statement.
The "Mossos" - as they are often referred to in Catalonia - are the largest police force in the northeastern region.
The Spanish Public Prosecutor's office has told the head of the Catalan regional police force (Mossos d'Esquarda) that the force will now come under the control of Spanish central government, Spanish media reported Saturday.
However, Catalonia's Interior Minister, Joaquim Forn, condemned the move as an attempt by the federal forces to hijack the local police force.
Despite their "collective neutrality" on Catalonia's future, MSPs say the arrest of Catalan government ministers was "no way for a democratic European state to act against its own people".
"That (the referendum) can not be held in the circumstances that we wanted is obvious", he said.
Catalonia's president, Carles Puigdemont, blasted the police operations as "unlawful" and accused the national government of adopting a "totalitarian attitude". That support has been waning in recent months as Spain's national and regional economies have begun thriving.
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