Caracas, October 2, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro lambasted his Spanish counterpart, Mariano Rajoy, Sunday in response to the latter’s police crackdown on an independence referendum in Catalonia.
“President Mariano Rajoy must respond to the world for what he did today with the Catalan referendum, and from Venezuela, all of our solidarity with the Catalan people,” the Venezuelan head of state declared during his weekly television program “Sundays with Maduro”.
At least 893 people were injured in clashes throughout Catalonia as Spain’s Civil Guard was mobilized to halt the referendum, which Madrid considers “illegal”.
According to Catalan authorities, 770,000 people were “prevented” from voting by Spanish police, who blocked access to voting stations and in some cases forcibly evicted voters from precincts.
Maduro contrasted the crackdown with his own administration’s handling of an unofficial July 16 opposition plebiscite, which asked voters if they wanted the national armed forces to intervene to “restore the constitutional order”.
“Where’s the dictatorship, Mariano Rajoy? In Venezuela where an illegal, unconstitutional plebiscite called by an insurreccional opposition was permitted? … Or in Catalonia, where (a referendum) has been savagely repressed by Spanish police forces?” he asked.
The July 16 poll, which was held amid violent anti-government street mobilizations that resulted in at least 126 deaths, received the backing of Washington, Madrid, and regional US allies, despite widespread irregularities.
Condemning Spanish intervention both in Catalonia and Venezuela, Maduro voiced support for Catalan self-determination.
“Catalonia has a right to democracy, peace, and freedom… Respect the people of Catalonia!” the Venezuelan leader urged.
Rajoy, for his part, has rejected accusations of excessive force against police and has insisted that “no referendum has been held in Catalonia”.
Nonetheless, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, has called on Spanish authorities to conduct “impartial investigations” into the police violence, while Catalonia’s government has vowed to seek EU sanctions against Madrid.
Despite the crackdown, over 2.26 million people – out of five million eligible voters – cast votes on Sunday, of which 90 percent backed independence.
Catalan President Carles Puigedemont has pledged to send the referendum results to Catalonia’s parliament, which had previously vowed to declare independence within 48 hours of a “Yes” vote.