SPAIN’S foreign minister denied Catalan accusations of a coup against the regional government yesterday — insisting the boot was on the other foot.
Catalan parliamentary speaker Carme Forcadell’s had described Madrid’s suspension of the autonomous community’s government as a “de facto coup d’etat with the goal of ousting a democratically elected government.”
Spanish conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s cabinet invoked Article 155 of the constitution on Saturday after Catalan President Carles Puigdemont refused to renounce a possible unilateral declaration of independence.
Instead he said the Catalan parliament would vote on the issue if Madrid refused to submit to his call for two months of talks.
Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis Dastis told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “If there is a coup d’etat, this is one followed by Mr Puigdemont and his government.”
“What we are doing is following strictly the provision of our constitution,” which he called a “carbon copy of the German constitution.”
“If you look at the rest of democracies and certainly partners in the European Union, they wouldn’t accept a decision as such to be taken by a part of the country,” Mr Dastis said.
Other EU leaders, fearful of emboldening regional secessionist movements in their own countries, have backed Mr Rajoy over Mr Puigdemont, who says a recent referendum backing independence by 92 per cent on a 43 per cent turnout despite federal police’s violent attempts to suppress it gives him a mandate to leave Spain.
The main opposition Socialist Workers Party backed the government, agreeing last week to new Catalan parliamentary elections in January.
On Saturday, Mr Puigdemont called the suspension of autonomy the “worst attack against the institutions and the people of Catalonia since the military dictatorship of Francisco Franco.”
He said he would convene the regional parliament “over this attempt to liquidate our government and our democracy and act in consequence.”
Hundreds of thousands rallied in central Barcelona on Saturday to demand freedom for two jailed independence leaders, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart.
Independence campaign Omnium Cultural spokesman Marcel Mauri appealed in English for international support, saying: “Help Catalonia, save Spain, save Europe,” saying Madrid’s assumption of powers “has destroyed democracy.”