"Yes" side wins Catalonia independence vote marred by chaos


BARCELONA, Spain — Catalonia’s regional government declared a landslide win for the “yes” side in a disputed referendum on independence from Spain that degenerated into ugly scenes of mayhem on Sunday, with more than 800 people injured as riot police attacked peaceful protesters and unarmed civilians gathered to cast their ballots.

Catalonia has “won the right to become an independent state,” Catalan president Carles Puigdemont said after the polls closed, adding that he would keep his pledge to declare independence unilaterally from Spain if the “yes” side wins.

“Today the Spanish state wrote another shameful page in its history with Catalonia,” Puigdemont added, saying he would appeal to the European Union to look into alleged human rights violations during the vote.

Catalan regional government spokesman Jordi Turull told reporters early Monday that 90 percent of the 2.26 million Catalans who voted chose the “yes” side in favor of independence. He said nearly 8 percent of voters rejected independence and the rest of the ballots were blank or void. He said 15,000 votes were still being counted.

The region has 5.3 million registered voters, and Turull said the number of ballots didn’t include those confiscated by Spanish police during violent raids that aimed to stop the vote.

No one knows precisely what will happen if Catalan officials actually follow through on their pledge to use the vote — chaotic as it was — as a basis for declaring the northeastern region independent, a provocative move that would threaten Spain with the possible loss of one of its most prosperous regions, including the popular coastal city of Barcelona, the regional capital.

Hundreds of police armed with truncheons and rubber bullets were sent in from other regions to confiscate ballots and stop the voting, and amateur video showed some officers dragging people out of polling stations by the hair, throwing some down stairs, kicking them and pushing them to the ground. Anguished, frightened screams could be heard.

Police were acting on a judge’s orders to stop the referendum, which the Spanish government had declared illegal and unconstitutional — and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said going forward with the vote only served to sow divisions.

In a televised address after the majority of polls closed Sunday, he thanked the Spanish police, saying they had acted with “firmness and serenity” — comments sure to anger Catalans.

Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said…



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