Madrid moves to suspend autonomy after Puigdemont renews threat of split
SPAIN moved to suspend Catalonia’s government yesterday after regional President Carles Puigdemont refused to back down from seeking secession.
Just minutes before the morning deadline set by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy for the regional government to renounce is secession bid, Mr Puigdemont sent a letter threatening to declare independence if Madrid refused his demand earlier this week for two months of talks.
“If the state government persists in blocking dialogue and the repression continues, the parliament of Catalonia will proceed, if deemed appropriate, to vote on the formal declaration of independence,” he wrote.
Mr Puigdemont claimed a mandate for independence after pressing ahead with an October 1 referendum in defiance of a constitutional court ruling against it and a police crackdown that injured hundreds of people.
But just 43 per cent of the electorate turned out, probably due to widespread abstention by No sympathisers.
Mr Rajoy responded to Mr Puigdemont’s defiant letter yesterday by calling a special cabinet meeting for Saturday, at which ministers will begin activating article 155 of the constitution to suspend the Catalan parliament.
Article 155 allows the federal government to assume the powers of any of the 17 autonomous regional governments.
The cabinet meeting will “approve the measures that will be sent to the Senate to protect the general interest of all Spaniards,” a government statement said.
Opposition Socialist Party secretary Jose Luis Abalos backed Mr Rajoy’s action against Catalan secession but called for the measures to be limited in scope and time.
The Ciudadanos party in the governing coalition said it wanted the powers enacted swiftly and new elections called in Catalonia immediately.
Meanwhile, European Union leaders, whose support the pro-EU Catalan government had hoped to receive, continued to turn their backs on Barcelona and express support for Madrid.
French President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday’s EU summit in Brussels would be “marked by a message of unity around member states amid the crises they could face, unity around Spain.”
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said: “There is a constitution that must be respected.
“I hope they are going to find a solution, political, diplomatic, and they talk together. No other solution would be good.”