CNI director Félix Sanz Roldán has admitted that Spain’s intelligence service fell short of the mark in their attempt to stop Catalonia’s independence referendum on October 1 last year. At a panel discussion held at Coca-Cola’s Journalism Day in Madrid, the spy chief admitted that they “could have done a better job”. He went on to say that he saw “many long faces” the day after the vote, once they realised that the ballot boxes had been delivered to the polling stations and only police violence managed to have an effect on the vote.
Nevertheless, Roldán stressed that the Spanish government at the time —led by PM Mariano Rajoy— informed him that the intelligence gathered ahead of the vote and on the day of the referendum had proved “useful”. In the months leading up to the referendum PM Rajoy had reiterated time and again that the vote would never be held and Spain’s judicial machinery took action to seize the ballot boxes and the rest of the material needed for the vote to take place. On the day of the ballot, the referendum’s IT systems were disrupted, but the poll went ahead anyway, despite action by the police.
Even though Spain’s law enforcement officers seized ballot slips and notices addressed to the citizens who had been randomly called to man the polling stations, the state’s apparatus failed to locate any of the ballot boxes ahead of the vote. Members of the public had taken it upon themselves to hide them and ensure that they were delivered to polling stations on the day.