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Spanish press berates both sides after Catalan violence

Newspapers across Spain warned Monday that the country has been "deeply torn apart" and "we have all lost" after the violence that marred Catalonia's independence referendum, denouncing the actions of both the region's separatist leaders and the central government.

Centre-left newspaper El Pais said Sunday's events were a "disaster for our country... for the fate of our democracy and for the stability and future of the system of co-existence we have had for nearly 40 years," referring to the 1978 constitution Spain adopted three years after the death of dictator Francisco Franco.

The newspaper denounced the "xenophobic arrogance" of Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and the "absolute incapacity of (prime minister) Mariano Rajoy to handle the problem since the start of this crisis".

"Rajoy declared (the referendum) a failure, but his strategy of waiting then sending in the police proved to be perhaps an even greater failure," said centre-right newspaper El Mundo.

Even the conservative ABC newspaper criticised Rajoy's strategy: "It is very difficult to say that yesterday's violence will have a lower cost than invoking Article 155 of the constitution," which would have suspended the powers of Catalonia's regional government.

But ABC said "the use of force has been legitimate, proportionate and necessary" and the aim of the Catalan leaders was not to "celebrate a referendum but provoke an occupation on the Catalan streets... to seek confrontation with the state and the fracturing of Catalonia".

"There was not a referendum in Catalonia worthy of the name, because it was illegal," ABC said.

Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia at least partly agreed, saying "there was not a referendum worthy of the name in Catalonia yesterday".

"The tear is deep. The situation is serious. We have all lost," the paper said.

After what happened on Sunday, "does anyone really believe that independence has been weakened? And worse, more difficult days and tense incidents are to come," wrote La Vanguardia's Marius Carol.

Madrid newspapers also criticised Catalan's regional police, the Mossos d'Esquadra, with ABC and El Mundo labelling their actions "treason".

"If the Mossos had stopped the polling booths from opening as they were ordered, the job would not have been done by the national police and the Guardia Civil, which would have saved us from many of the lamentable scenes seen around the world," El Pais said.

Catalan newspaper El Periodico predicted there will soon be a "unilateral proclamation of the Catalan Republic," followed by a "strong response from the state" in which "all Catalans and the institutions that allow autonomy in the region will pay the consequences".


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