MADRID: Spain’s central government launched its latest salvo against Catalonia on Friday, tightening control over regional spending and brushing aside a last-ditch separatist demand for dialogue to allow a banned referendum. “The rule of law works. Maybe some have not noticed, and it would be best if they noticed, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told a meeting of his conservative Popular Party in Barcelona. “The state will keep acting, because that is its duty,” he added to applause from the audience, which gave him a standing ovation at the end of his speech. State authorities have piled pressure on Catalonia, threatening to arrest mayors if they facilitate the referendum and ordering police to seize any item that could be used in the vote in a region sharply divided over whether it wants independence. Madrid went a step further Friday by tightening control over Catalonia’s spending to prevent the region from using money to organize the referendum. Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro said Spain’s central government would take over the payments of essential services and public workers’ salaries in the region to make sure the cash went just to them.