The Latest: Catalan govt struggles to distribute ballots

BARCELONA, Spain — The Latest on Catalonia’s plans to hold a referendum Sunday on breaking away from Spain (all times local):

4:45 p.m.

It’s not clear whether the Catalan government can distribute enough ballot boxes and ballots to its polling stations to carry out a credible vote on whether the northeastern region should declare independence from Spain.

Police in Catalonia have already confiscated 10 million paper ballots. On Saturday, they were sealing off many schools as possible to prevent them from being used as polling stations. Police have given activists and parents an ultimatum to leave the schools by 6 a.m. Sunday — three hours before the vote is to begin.

Enric Millo, the highest-ranking Spanish official in the region, says central authorities would tolerate informal balloting in the streets of Catalonia since that can’t be considered a valid electoral vote.

He says “they can always put a makeshift table in the street, with some buckets, and put papers in.”

But Millo adds “what Catalan authorities have promised, an effective referendum with legal basis and binding, is something that won’t happen.”


2:25 p.m.

Thousands of people have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government’s push to hold a referendum on separating the region from Spain.

Spanish unity supporters packing Cibeles Plaza on Saturday morning shouted “Viva Espana,” and “Puigdemont To Jail!”

Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont, who openly favors breaking away from Spain, is among those promoting the independence referendum scheduled for Sunday.

The anti-secession demonstration was the biggest in Madrid since the referendum was called earlier this year. Similar demonstrations were held in other Spanish towns and cities.

While Spanish flags were everywhere at the Madrid demonstration, some of the protesters donned the flag used during Spain’s long right-wing dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco. It features an eagle in the middle.


1:45 p.m.

A top Spanish security official in Catalonia says police have sealed off more than half of the 2,315 polling stations designated for a disputed referendum on the region’s independence from Spain.

Enric Millo, the highest-ranking Spanish official in the northeastern region, said parents and students were found to be occupying 163 schools and holding activities when police were sealing off facilities on Saturday.

The regional police force has been ordered not to use force, but to vacate the schools…

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