BARCELONA, Spain — The Latest on Catalonia’s bid to hold an independence referendum Sunday on breaking away from Spain (all times local):
The mayor of Barcelona says the European Commission should mediate the tense standoff between the Spanish and Catalan governments over Catalonia’s future.
The northwest region’s separatist government plans to hold a binding referendum Sunday on breaking away from Spain. The country’s central government in Madrid has directed police to seize ballots, block polling places and arrest local officials to stop the vote from taking place.
During an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau blamed the “wave of repression” on Spain’s conservative government. Colau says the EU should act to defend freedom of speech and other rights.
Barcelona is Catalonia’s capital. Colau has sent letters to the mayors of capital cities in other parts of Europe to ask them to lobby on behalf of her call for dialogue and mediation.
She says Sunday’s balloting will show the desire of Catalans to decide the region’s future. But Colau says she doesn’t think it can be considered a proper referendum because Spain has not agreed to the vote.
Spain’s Constitutional Court already has suspended the referendum so it can consider if it is legal.
Catalonia’s interior minister says the region’s authorities are aiming to ensure that a disputed referendum on independence from Spain will take place peacefully.
Joaquin Forn says that officials are determined to proceed with Sunday’s vote, even though Spain’s government says it’s illegal and can’t happen.
Forn says the central government is deploying 10,000 police officers in Catalonia for the ballot.
He told a news conference in Barcelona that he met with regional security officials in an effort to defuse tension surrounding the vote.
He insisted, however, that the Catalan police force k take their orders from local authorities. The force’s loyalty has been torn between the central and regional governments.
He said Catalan authorities have no bones of contention with the National Police and Civil Guard, which have enacted some controversial central government measures to prevent the vote.
Thousands of striking university students are marching through Barcelona to protest what they call an intensifying central government crackdown on Sunday’s planned independence referendum in Catalonia.
The students are demanding the right to vote in the regional ballot on secession, which the Madrid-based national government says is illegal.
Many protesters are carrying pro-independence flags and handmade banners, with slogans such as “we want to vote.” The march Thursday and the strikes were called by Catalonia’s main student unions.
Laia Ferrus, a 20-year-old student of education, said she had chosen to come out of a sense of democratic duty. She said, “It’s no longer about calling for independence. It’s about standing up for our basic principles and rights.”
A media watch dog says pressure by the Catalan government and social media harassment by “hooligans ” of the pro-independence movement is making for a suffocating atmosphere for journalists trying to cover the planned Oct. 1 independence referendum in the northeastern Spanish region.
A report by Reporters Without Borders on Thursday said the regional government’s drive to impose its side of the story in local, Spanish and international media has “crossed the red lines.”
It added that Spanish authorities’ judicial measures against Catalan media to stem propaganda for the referendum have created an atmosphere of extreme tension.
Spokeswoman Pauline Ades-Mevel called on Catalan authorities to come out against the stigmatization of Spanish media, saying it smacked of electoral campaigns such as those of Donald Trump and other “reactionary movements.”
Catalonia’s foreign affairs chief has appealed for support from the European Union before a disputed referendum calling for independence from Spain.
Raul Romeva, speaking to journalists Thursday in Brussels, said that EU institutions need to “understand that this is a big issue.” Romeva spoke a day after Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont accused the EU, in an interview with The Associated Press , of “turning its back” on Catalonia in its conflict with Spain’s central government.
Romeva accused the Spanish government of a “brutal crackdown” on Catalan officials to try to prevent Sunday’s referendum, which Spain considers to be illegal, and that it’s “generated an unprecedented level of shock.”
He said that he doesn’t expect violence, because “it’s not in the Catalan DNA to use violence to solve political problems.”