Newsbud Exclusive- Catalonia: Franco Returns.

Catalans are drawing comparisons to the brutal rule of El caudillo, the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, after the Spanish central government began its crackdown on a planned referendum for Catalonia independence.

Offices were raided and members of the Catalan government arrested on September 20 by Spain's Guardia Civil police as part of an effort to derail an independence vote scheduled for October 1. Madrid ruled the referendum illegal and imposed a ban. Police seized ballots and documents related to the referendum and later took over the payment of essential services and public workers' salaries to prevent Catalonia from spending money. The Spanish government also ordered banks to control all movements in the accounts and credit cards managed by Catalan leaders.

On September 22, the Spanish Interior Ministry chartered three ferries to house police in preparation for a crackdown.

"Three ships arrived and will stay in the ports of Barcelona and Tarragona, where police and Guardia Civil forces will stay," said the central government's representative office in Catalonia.

According to a spokesman for the port in Barcelona, the police, said to number over 16,000, will stay until October 3, two days after the scheduled referendum vote. A recent Guardia Civil tweet described the presence of its officers in Catalonia as “La tormenta,” or the storm. The Guardia Civil operation is dubbed Anubis, named after the Egyptian god of death.

The president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, told the Guardian that even during the worst of ETA era the government did not deploy massive numbers of police. ETA, an acronym for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or "Basque Homeland and Liberty,” was a formerly armed leftist Basque nationalist and separatist organization in the Basque Country in northern Spain and southwestern France.

“How would people in the UK feel if ferries stuffed with police officers suddenly turned up where they live? Or if they saw police vans all over the motorway and paramilitary police—like the Guardia Civil—raiding newspaper offices or government buildings or private homes and arresting people as if they were dealing with terrorists?” Puigdemont told the newspaper.

The repressive tactics of the Spanish government are reminiscent of the Franco era. After Franco defeated the democratically elected Spanish Republic and staged a military coup with the assistance of Hitler and Mussolini, Catalans experienced the annulment of the Statute of Autonomy—gained in 1932—and the curtailment of civil liberties, the banning of Catalan institutions, the prohibition and persecution of political parties, and censorship. [READ MORE]

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