Catalan head says central government has taken over regional government

Catalonia would suffer “brutal” impoverishment if it splits, warns Spain

The secessionist politician's intervention comes hours after Spanish national police raided Catalan government ministries in the early hours of the morning in a bid to stop and gather evidence on a planned independence referendum slated for 1 October.

Josep Maria Jove's arrest came after Spanish police searched the Catalan government's offices in Barcelona ahead of banned independence vote. It gave no details on the number of agents involved.

The region, which is home to around 7.5 million people, receives about 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion) a month from the central government.

Several ministries in Barcelona were raided on Wednesday, including the economy, foreign affairs, telecoms, social affairs and presidency buildings.

Puigdemont reiterated his call for Catalans to "defend democracy" and to vote en masse in the referendum.

Carles Puigdemont appeared with members of his cabinet Wednesday following several arrests in an ongoing operation by Civil Guard agents.

The actions of the Spanish police are part of Madrid's larger strategy to undermine Catalonia's independence vote, which the Spanish Constitutional Court has declared illegal.

Years of separatist feeling in the industrial northeastern region will come to a head in less than two weeks as the fiercely pro-independence regional government calls a referendum on splitting from Spain.

Oriol Junqueras, the Catalan vice president, said on Catalunya Radio that they were hunting for electoral posters, funds, and other materials designated for the vote on 1 October.

Although the Catalan independence movement has so far been peaceful, raids on government premises carried out by a Spanish militarised police force, the Guardia Civil, create uncomfortable echoes of the Franco dictatorship. The finance ministry took over the direct payment of basic services such as education, health and civil servants' salaries last week.

H e said the Catalan government is going against the Spanish constitution by holding the vote and that, "logically, the state has to act".

The raids have caused mixed reaction with scuffles breaking out between police and pro-independence protesters as well as criticism of the national government's attempts to stop a vote in the wealthy north-east region of Spain. Both officials declined to be identified by name, following internal protocol.

The province of Catalonia's headlong rush towards independence challenges the very roots of Spain's existence as a unitary state.

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