‘Everything prepared’ for Catalan vote – but Madrid says it won’t happen

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Catalonia’s leader made clear his government was determined to go ahead with a Sunday vote on independence that Madrid calls illegal and which has thrust Spain into its most dramatic political crisis for decades.

The central government, which has sent thousands of police reinforcements to the region to prevent people from voting, meanwhile insisted on Friday the referendum would not happen.

“Everything is prepared at the more than 2,000 voting points so they have ballot boxes and voting slips, and have everything people need to express their opinion,” Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont told Reuters in an interview on Friday.

At a news conference on Friday, regional officials displayed one of the white plastic ballot boxes, bearing the crest of the regional government. Puigdemont has said more than 6,000 of them are hidden in a secret place.

Courts have ordered police to cordon off schools scheduled to be used as ballot stations. In a bid to keep them open, parents have called for a mass school sleepover this weekend, with tents and sleeping bags, free paella and cinema. Organizers said 60,000 had already registered to participate.

Separatists have called on people to turn out early at polling stations in a mass statement of “peaceful resistance”, even if they are prevented from voting.

“I don’t believe there will be anyone who will use violence or who will want to provoke violence that will tarnish the irreproachable image of the Catalan independence movement as pacifist,” Puigdemont said

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