BARCELONA, Spain — The Latest on Catalonia’s disputed independence referendum and Spain’s response (all times local):
The famed Barcelona soccer club and the two other Catalan clubs in the Spanish soccer league are joining a strike to protest the Spanish government’s actions in Catalonia’s independence vote.
Barcelona says none of its professional or youth teams are practicing on Tuesday and the club headquarters is closed. The Girona soccer team also suspended practice and Espanyol is having players undergo physical training behind closed doors.
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique, one of the most outspoken supporters of Catalans, was harassed by fans Monday when he reported to Spain’s national team training camp in Madrid ahead of upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
Police had to intervene as fans chanted and held cards against him.
Spain coach Julen Lopetegui told the COPE radio station the central defender remains motivated despite the abuse from fans. He praised Pique’s commitment to the national team and said there is no reason not to have him on the squad.
Spain’s top official in Catalonia says he laments the violence that left hundreds of civilians and police injured during a disputed independence referendum but blames the regional separatist government for “exposing citizens to danger.”
Enric Millo said Tuesday that “nothing of this would have happened if the government wouldn’t have declared itself in rebellion, breaking the orders of the courts and lying and tricking people.”
He said Spain’s National Police and Civil Guard anti-riot squads broke into schools designated as polling stations when it was clear that the regional Mossos d’Esquadra police, controlled by the Catalan government, was not carrying out a judge’s orders to impede the voting.
He also accused the grassroots groups driving the independence bid, the National Catalan Assembly and Omnium Cultural, and pro-independence mayors of “plotting to break the law.”
Several hundred Barcelona port workers have held a demonstration outside the regional headquarters of Spain’s ruling Popular Party chanting slogans against government policies and the alleged brutality of police during a disputed weekend referendum on Catalonia’s secession that left hundreds of people injured.
The protest came as several small labor unions and grassroots pro-independence groups urged workers throughout Catalonia to go on partial or full-day strikes to protest the police actions during Sunday’s voting.
The port workers threw wads of unused ballot papers from the vote into the air in the protest outside the party’s office in downtown Barcelona.
Regional police placed barriers outside the building to stop the crowd getting near the offices.
The protest lasted more than an hour.
Credit ratings agency Moody’s has warned that the increased tensions over the Spanish region of Catalonia’s push for independence could hurt the country’s overall debt worthiness.
The agency said the “ratcheting-up of tensions has negative credit implications” that could be worsened if Catalonia’s regional government declares independence after claiming victory in a local referendum they organized that was deemed illegal by Spain.
Moody’s said that the probability of Catalan independence remains low, mainly because it remains unclear that a majority of Catalans actually want independence. Participation in Sunday’s vote was reportedly only 42 percent. It expects the sides to negotiate a deal for greater powers for the region.
The agency noted that Catalonia represents about a fifth of Spain’s economy, with a high per capita GDP. So independence would seriously affect Spain’s public finances.
A prominent leader of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has condemned the bloc’s failure to clearly condemn the police violence that marred Sunday’s contested independence vote in the Spanish region of Catalonia.
Nigel Farage said “it is quite extraordinary to realize that this Union is prepared to turn a blind eye” to events in Catalonia.
He told EU lawmakers that never “did I think we would see the police of a member state of the Union injuring 900 people in an attempt to stop them going out to vote.”
Farage attacked European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker for his silence about it during a speech to the assembly Tuesday, saying: “What do we get from Mister Juncker today? Not a dicky-bird.”
Cyprus says Spain’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity need to be respected, arguing that the referendum on Catalonia’s independence was carried out “in violation” of the Spanish constitution.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry of the internationally recognized south of the Mediterranean island nation said Spain’s unity must be upheld as well as its constitutional order.
The ministry said “dialogue and restraint are only the way forward.”
Cyprus itself was split into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and the Greek Cypriot south when Turkey invaded in 1974 following a coup by supporters of union the Greece.
The latest round of talks aimed at reunifying the island collapsed last July.
Turkey’s foreign ministry spokesman says respect for Spain’s territorial integrity is a main “principle.”
Huseyin Muftuoglu said in a statement issued early Tuesday that it was important that both sides abide by Spain’s laws and avoid violence.
His comment follows Sunday’s independence referendum in Catalonia that Spain’s courts deemed illegal. More than 800 people were injured as riot police clashed with unarmed civilians trying to cast their ballots.
Muftuoglu said Turkey believes Spain will overcome “such tests.”
Turkey, which is battling a Kurdish insurgency, has strongly opposed a referendum on independence by the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in neighboring Iraq, threatening economic sanctions and military action.
Labor unions and grassroots pro-independence groups are urging workers to hold partial or full-day strikes throughout Catalonia to protest alleged brutality by police during a referendum on the region’s secession from Spain that left hundreds of people injured.
The strike call comes as Catalan leaders ponder a possible declaration of independence this week following the referendum that Spain said was illegal and invalid.
Port workers were being called to demonstrate Tuesday outside the regional headquarters of Spain’s ruling Popular Party while firefighters planned a rally outside the Interior Ministry’s regional office in the Catalan capital of Barcelona.
Protests were also to be staged outside polling stations where police acted with force to try to prevent Sunday’s poll being held.
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