War of words follows Spain's separatist vote

Barcelona: A day of violence and voting in northern Spain has been followed by a war of words, as pro-independence Catalans sought to capitalise on Sunday's referendum.

More than two million Catalans voted for independence on Sunday - nearly half of the region's registered voters and ten times the turnout for 'No' - despite attempts by Spanish police to disrupt the poll

The Catalan government has called a general strike for Tuesday, suspending non-essential public services. Unions, universities and football clubs announced they would join the action, which will include public demonstrations against the Spanish government.

FC Barcelona announced it would join the strike and not train on Tuesday.

The Catalan parliament will debate whether to declare independence in a sitting either late this week or early next, Lluis Corominas, chairman of the JxSi political alliance and the parliament's vice president said on Monday.

After proclaiming independence the Catalan government would begin negotiations with the Spanish state to set up a roadmap for separation, including the drafting of a constitution and new elections for the first government of the Catalan republic.

The precise timing would be determined at a meeting on Wednesday, he said.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont called for international mediators to help with the discussions with Spain, saying he did not want a traumatic break with the rest of the country.

He said he would set up a commission to investigation alleged abuses of fundamental rights during the referendum, which was marred by police violence.

He said 893 people had been injured in police action against voting stations. Four people were hospitalised and two were in a very serious condition.

It was "the biggest wave of unjustified violence in 40 years", he said.

Reportedly, one voter lost an eye when shot with a rubber bullet by police.

However Spain's ruling People's Party disputed the figure, saying the actual number of injuries was four.

Spain's interior ministry said 431 members of state security forces - police and civil guards - had been injured by bruises, scratches, kicks and bites from would-be voters.

Amnesty International said police had reacted "in an excessive and disproportionate manner" against voters who were passively resisting police orders to leave voting places.

It called for an immediate and exhaustive investigation.

Puigdemont called for the 10,000- extra Spanish police officers deployed in Catalonia in advance of Sunday's referendum to leave as soon as possible.

"Tomorrow's general strike will reinforce what we did yesterday as well as what is yet to come

He insisted the referendum result was valid, and said it was "regretful" that there had been no contact with the Spanish government.

"We have a political problem, not one for police," he said.

But the Spanish government insisted it would not recognise the vote, which it said was illegal and provocative.

Spain's federal police said they would "identify and photograph" members of the Mossos - the Catalan police - who had not followed orders to stop voters from entering polling stations.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he had called for a plenary session of parliament to discuss the crisis next week.

Spain's opposition leader, the Socialist Party's Pedro Sanchez, said the "time for inaction is over" and the prime minister must "negotiate, negotiate and negotiate and reach an agreement" with the Catalan government.

The territorial integrity of Spain was now at stake, he said.

European parliament president Antonio Tajani said the parliament will hold a debate this week on the Constitution, rule of law and fundamental rights in Spain in light of the events in Catalonia

A spokesman for the European Commission said the referendum had not been legal and if Catalonia became independent it would leave the EU.

He called on "all relevant players to now move very swiftly from confrontation to dialogue".

"This is an internal matter for Spain that has to be dealt with in line with the constitutional order of Spain," he said.

A group of European parliamentarians who had observed the vote said they "were impressed and reassured by the patient, determined and non-violent behaviour of the huge number of people who came out to vote across Catalonia".

They expressed their abhorrence at the "brutal" violence against voters and the removal of ballot boxes. And they said adequate steps had been taken to prevent double voting.

"We would hope that in the near future the Spanish Government will enter into genuine negotiations with the Catalans," they said.

EU president Donald Tusk said he had spoken to Mr Rajoy and "sharing his constitutional arguments, I appealed for finding ways to avoid further escalation and use of force".

Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister in the left-wing Syriza government, criticised the EU response asking on Twitter "What message does the Commission's implicit support of violence against peaceful crowds send to authoritarian governments in Hungary/Poland?"

This story War of words follows Spain's separatist vote first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.