The Spanish President Mariano Rajoy visited the White House Tuesday to discuss several issues including the upcoming Catalonian independence referendum, North Korea and other terrorist threats with President Donald Trump.
In the press conference following their meeting, Trump and Rajoy both made statements about their fruitful discussion.
“Together Spain and the United States hope for peace,” said Trump.
“Combatting terrorism was something we talked about at length,” said Rajoy. He also said that Spain has taken “taken measures that have reduced the diplomatic presence” on North Korea and said that “Spain will support any political decision” in regards to handling the threats North Korea and its nuclear weapon program.
Trump blamed the Obama administration for letting the North Korea issue get out of hand, but promised to “fix the mess.”
Rajoy and Trump also agree that countries need to take a strict stance on Venezuela. The Trump administration updated the travel ban Sunday by including new sanctions against Venezuela.
“The international community should be forceful with regards to Venezuela,” said Rajoy. “What is happening in Venezuela is unacceptable.”
While the country leaders discussed several international issues, a topic on the agenda was the upcoming Catalonia independence referendum.
Catalonia is located in Spain’s north-east corner with 7.5 million citizens. It has its own devolved government and even its own language.
Since 2012, secessionists in Catalonia have been campaigning for the region to become independent from Spain.
Back in November 2014, Catalonia’s government had an informal referendum where 80% voted for independence.
“A pro-independence movement in 2014 held a symbolic vote. Only 37% (2.25 million) of all eligible voters (5.4 million) took part in the Nov. 2014 ballot, voting overwhelmingly towards independence (81%). Many opponents, however, boycotted the vote,” writes Time. “Former President Mas hailed the poll “a great success,” and said that it should pave the way for a formal referendum.”
Now there is an “official” referendum scheduled for October 1.
However, the Spanish government has declared the vote as illegal and has arrested some of the leaders for organizing it.
“On Monday officers of the Guardia Civil, Spain’s national police, raided 31 council buildings across northeastern Spain to seize documents related to the referendum vote. The operation was said to be focused on documents signed by local mayors in support of the referendum and plans to use government buildings as polling stations. According to the UK Express, over 750 local mayors are currently under investigation for supporting the independence movement,” writes Breitbart.
A Spanish attorney general did not rule out arresting the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who has promised to separate from Spain in only two days, before the vote.
The European Union has alluded that if Catalan were to become its own country it will lose its EU membership status.
“If there were to be a ‘yes’ vote in favor of Catalan independence, then we will respect that opinion, but Catalonia will not be able to be an EU member state on the day after such a vote,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission.
This doesn’t seem like much of a concern to separatists who held rallies over the weekend.
“Several thousand protesters gathered in central Barcelona on Sunday chanting ‘We will vote!’ and handing out ballot papers. The crowds began whistling and booing a police helicopter during speeches by the protest organizers, showing growing anger among the referendum supporters about the increased police presence,” writes Reuters.
Rajoy has said that he will “do whatever is needed, without relinquishing anything” to halt the vote.
If the vote does happen and independence passes, it won’t be seen as a clean vote by Spain, but it will likely be all that Catalans need to start the independence process.
After his meeting with Rajoy, Trump condemned the upcoming vote. He said that Catalonia can’t hold a “valid democratic referendum.”
“I’m for united Spain,” said Trump. “I really think the people of Catalonia would stay with Spain.”