Spain's Interior minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, told at least ten falsehoods in his appearance before the country's Senate today. The minister was justifying in the actions by Spain's Civil Guard and National Police Corps to prevent the Catalan independence referendum on 1st October last year.
Use of force
Zoido said that "a legitimate and proportionate use of force took place". In reality, the fact that a total of 1,066 people are recorded as having needed medical attention thanks to the baton hits, the shoving and even the firing of rubber bullets categorically disproves the minister's claim. This is supported by the images available of the brutal police intervention at many polling stations, seen around the world, and also by the testimonies of those affected, which have led to a variety of cases being opened in more than twenty courts. Also today, in its annual report, the prestigious NGO Human Rights Watch described an "excessive use of force".
Number of polling stations affected
Zoido claimed that, in relation to the police intervention, there were only problems at 6 or 7 polling stations. At the rest, he said, there was "normality" instead. The number of voting centres affected in reality is much higher. In the province of Barcelona alone, there have been complaints made before the courts over attacks by the state's police forces at 26 locations.
The Mossos' actions
The minister was insistent on the idea that the interventions by the Civil Guard and National Police Corps were due to the "absolute passivity", the "inaction" and the "little collaboration" of the Mossos d'Esquadra (Catalan police) with the other forces during the operation. The reality is that the Catalan police managed to shut more polling stations than Spain's forces. According to a number of sources, they closed twice as many: 130 to 140 to the Mossos and 60 to 70 to the Civil Guard and National Police together.
The Interior minister argued that the "aim of the police action was to obey the legal order". But the manifestly selective actions taken by agents at many voting centres show the extent to which a good part of the police were following the slogan of "¡A por ellos! (Go get 'em). For example, events at the polling station in Sant Julià de Ramis, the village where president Puigdemont was due to vote. Their sports centre suffered serious damages as agents burst in with batons and sledgehammers.
Use of rubber bullets
"The information I have is that the injured person had knocked over barriers", said the minister, referring to the case of Roger Español (link in Catalan) who lost his sight in one eye after being hit by a rubber bullet shot by a police officer. The images which have emerged of the events show that the agents were firing indiscriminately against groups of voters using rubber bullets which are banned in Catalonia. Español explained that the agents fired as they were already falling back, after having confiscated ballot boxes from Jaume Balmes school in Barcelona.
Tension in Calella and Pineda de Mar
Zoido said that "they wanted to manage to eject the National Police and Civil Guard from Calella and Pineda de Mar". But the minister didn't explain that, in reality, the protests that took place against the agents staying in the two small coastal towns started after attacks some of them had carried out in Calella against local residents on the night of the referendum. According to a number of witnesses, plain-clothes Civil Guard agents staying at Hotel Vila responded to a protest against their presence by spitting at residents, throwing urine on them and even chasing them with telescopic batons. They even attacked a member of the Mossos d'Esquadra.
The minister claimed that on the "1st October there was a complete lack of guarantees and checks" and that, in some polling stations, the number of votes cast was higher than the electoral roll. If that happened it's because, given the obstacles to holding the vote normally, the government enabled a system for voters to be able to cast their ballots in any open centre, although they obviously still only had one vote.
Children closing the motorway
"The worst is that, on 8th November, minors were used to close roads, with the danger that can cause", said Zoido, holding up a photograph showing children sitting on a motorway the day of the "countrywide standstill" called in response to the police repression during the referendum. The photo was reported as fake the day itself, the children in question actually being hundreds of metres away from where the motorway (the C-32 near Mataró) was closed. And even further from a group of police ready to confront the protesters. The closed roads allowed many people to walk freely on them that day.
The Spanish government and the imprisonments
The minister said that "if there are people in prison it's because some court has decided so. The Spanish government doesn't do anything about that". It's true that it's the judges of the National Audience and Supreme Court who have decided on the imprisonment of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, of the members of the government and of the then-speaker of the Parliament, Carme Forcadell. But all the actions in the form of lawsuits were launched from the attorney general's office, which receives direct orders from the executive. The deputy prime minister of Spain, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, has boasted of "decapitating" pro-independence parties Junts per Catalunya and ERC after the imprisonment of vice-president Oriol Junqueras and president Carles Puigdemont leaving into exile. The measures taken via article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, at the initiative of prime minister Rajoy and which led to the dismissal of the Catalan government, the intervention in Catalan autonomy and the calling of early elections, gave political cover to the legal decisions.
Was there a referendum?
The minister said that, due to the police action, "there was no process that could be considered a referendum". In reality, despite the police attacks and the closing of many polling stations, 2,286,217 people took part in the referendum, according to the official Catalan government results. One of the most important reasons for this was that neither the National Police Corps, nor the Civil Guard, nor the CNI, Spain's intelligence service, managed to find and confiscate a single ballot box before the 1st.