25 September, 2017
The government of Catalonia, a wealthy region in northeastern Spain, has called a referendum on independence for October 1, triggering a constitutional crisis in the country.
Colonel Diego Pérez de los Cobos has been put in charge of Catalan police forces in the autonomous region.
The arrests, as well as Wednesday's seizure of almost 10 million ballots destined for the vote, have seriously damaged separatist plans to conduct a referendum with a semblance of legitimacy, even if it was never going to be recognized by Madrid.
An Interior Ministry official, requesting anonymity because he was not allowed to be named in media reports, said Saturday's measure did "not mean taking command" of the Catalan police, but that it was "simply to agree on a means of coordination".
Forn said the chief of the Mossos d'Esquadra had expressed his opposition to the measure during a meeting Saturday with the top state prosecutor in Catalonia and chiefs of two other national police forces, the National Police and the Civil Guard.
State police already on the ground carried out unprecedented raids on regional government offices, printers, newspapers and delivery companies, searching for campaign material on Wednesday.
"It would be sensible, reasonable and democratic to stop and say, there won't be a referendum, which they know won't happen", he said at one of his party's events.
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Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the offices of the regional government's economy ministry in the centre of Barcelona's tourist district, chanting "They will not pass" and "We will vote", a Reuters witness said.
The "Mossos" - as they are often referred to in Catalonia - are the largest police force in the northeastern region. Catalan officials insist the vote will take place.
Supporters of Catalan independence are protesting against the Spanish government's decision to ban an independence referendum on October 1.
The Catalan police, Madrid claims, have not been complying with their instructions to clear protesters away from government buildings.
However, Catalonia's Interior Minister, Joaquim Forn, condemned the move as an attempt by the federal forces to hijack the local police force.
Demonstrators gathered again in Barcelona on Saturday while hundreds of farmers, many of tractors, joined a protest in the city of Lleida.
Catalan National Assembly president Jordi Sanchez told the cheering crowds: "We will be here, peacefully but present, until all of the arrested walk out free".