In a country and society which still bears the scars of the brutal 1936-39 civil war which brought General Franco and fascism to power, the sight of Spanish police being unleashed to arrest Catalan public officials, seize ballot boxes and attempt to disrupt the scheduled referendum will undoubtedly have sent a shiver of historical memory running down the spines of all Catalans, and indeed many Spaniards outwith the region.
With neither the Madrid nor Barcelona evincing any sign of backing down, is Spain poised on the precipice of the kind of civil unrest its people had considered the product of a bygone age?
As the referendum approaches, not only Spain but the entire world awaits with baited breath what is the severest test Spanish democracy has faced since Franco's death in 1975.
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