Sunday 22 October 2017

Spanish police 'abandoned' by Madrid - union

Spanish National Police officers stand in front of their hotel before leaving in police vehicles in Pineda de Mar, Barcelona. Photo: REUTERS
Spanish National Police officers stand in front of their hotel before leaving in police vehicles in Pineda de Mar, Barcelona. Photo: REUTERS

Hannah Strange

A union of Spain's Guardia Civil called yesterday for urgent reinforcements in Catalonia, accusing the government in Madrid of "abandoning" them to "harassment" it said had reached the level of Eta's heyday.

Amid anger on Catalan streets over the violent police crackdown on Sunday's banned independence referendum which left almost 900 injured, the Union of Guardia Civil Officers said agents were being "harassed, manipulated and vilified by the citizens that they serve".

Hundreds of National Police and Guardia Civil officers have been forced to abandon Catalan hotels in the face of protests by local residents, while thousands of demonstrators descended on the National Police headquarters in Barcelona yesterday.

"Right now Catalonia is like the Basque Country in 1981," it said in a blistering statement which claimed they had been "abandoned to their luck" by government "inaction" and "betrayed" by "disloyal" Catalan police, the Mossos d'Esquadra.

The year 1981 was a particularly violent period in the Basque conflict and the year of a major crisis in post-dictatorship Spain, which saw an attempted coup by members of the army and Guardia Civil partly in response to the intensifying Eta offensive during the transition to democracy.

Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan president, has demanded the government in Madrid withdraw the thousands of officers deployed for the vote.

People hold Catalan separatist flags during a demonstration in Barcelona. Photo: Yves Herman/Reuters
People hold Catalan separatist flags during a demonstration in Barcelona. Photo: Yves Herman/Reuters

But ministers have not blinked, and yesterday it was reported that the two cruise liners housing officers in the port of Barcelona had extended their stay until October 11.

The Guardia Civil union, however, said the government must "look after them, or pull them out".

"The lamentable incidents that right now are taking place in Catalonia, where the forces and bodies of state security are surrounded in hotels, abandoned to their luck, betrayed by some disloyal Mossos d'Esquadra, encouraged by politicians (that are) TRAITORS to the state, witnessing live on WhatsApp the lynching of our fellow Guardia Civil, do not leave us any other course than to ask that action is taken, that they are liberated, that they are reinforced, that they are assisted, that decisions are taken," the union said.

National Police unions too called protests outside the force's stations across Spain, with five organisations calling on the Spanish Interior Ministry to enact "urgent and effective measures" to guarantee officers' security in Catalonia.

In a joint statement, they demanded ministers "stop passing the buck" and "back with actions, not words, the work of the only officials who in this moment are maintaining the rule of law in Catalonia".

Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido called a crisis meeting, insisting he would take "all necessary measures to halt the intolerable harassment" of security forces.

The National Police also rounded on the Mossos d'Esquadra, which has drawn heavy criticism from national authorities for failing to take a hardline approach to Sunday's vote.

The unions claimed: "the work of the Mossos d'Esquadra … remains dominated by inaction, laxness, neutrality and the aversion to the fulfillment of their legal obligations."

Police forces including the Mossos had received judicial orders to close polling stations and prevent voting, but "without affecting the normal coexistence of the citizens".

The Catalan force, citing public safety, took a hands-off approach, which national security forces allege forced the crackdown that has drawn opprobrium from around the world.

Alarmingly, in several instances, disagreements between the Catalan and national officers also erupted into physical aggression. (© Daily Telegraph London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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