Spain to Start Suspension of Catalan Autonomy on Saturday

Carles Puigdemont Catalan President Carles Puigdemont at the regional Parliament, Barcelona, Spain - 10 Oct 2017 (Photo by ALBERTO ESTEVEZ/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock )

The central government of Spain has announced it would meet on Saturday to discuss suspending the Catalan autonomy. The ministers in the cabinet of Mariano Rajoy will discuss triggering of Article 155 of Spanish Constitution.

The article says: “If a self-governing community does not fulfil the obligations imposed upon it by the constitution or other laws or acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain, the government may take all measures necessary to compel the community to meet said obligations, or to protect the above-mentioned general interest.”

According to this article, Spain’s government can take temporary control of the region, as measures to be implemented could range from taking control of the regional police and finances to calling a snap election. Measures would most likely stay until the election of new members of the Catalan Parliament and President.

Spain’s Senate, controlled by Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party and its allies, would then have to approve the list, and the government would not be able to move. Madrid said it would quickly move to take control of the autonomous Catalonia and restore “constitutional order” after the region’s president refused to back away from a push for independence.

Experts say that this decision would not theoretically mean a full suspension of regional autonomy, but it would provide the central government with enough tools to maintain control, according to the Washington Post. No government has ever invoked the article, which is being referred to in the press as the “nuclear option”.

The Catalan response

Facing a deadline imposed by the central government to answer the question whether Catalonia was declaring independence or not on 10th of October, the regional president Carles Puigdemont replied today that threats to seize control of the autonomous region should stop. Instead, in the second letter to Mariano Rajoy, he proposes a dialogue, stating that Catalonia’s suspension of its declaration of independence remains in force.

But Puigdemont then added a threat of his own: if Madrid did not agree to talks, and continued its repression of the region, then the Catalan parliament would meet to vote on a formal declaration of independence.

Fear of clashes

There is a fear of clashes that could ensue from new political battles between Madrid and Barcelona. Tensions in the already fraught impasse rose further this week after a judge at Spain’s national court denied bail to two prominent Catalan independence leaders who are being investigated for alleged sedition, Guardian reports.

Jordi Sanchez, the president of the Catalan national assembly (ANC), and Jordi Cuixart, the president of the Catalan association Omnium Cultural, are accused of using huge demonstrations to try to prevent Spanish police officers from following a judge’s orders to halt the referendum.

Puigdemont called them “political prisoners”, and thousands of people protested on the streets of Barcelona for their release. The chief of Catalonia’s regional police, Josep Luis Trapero, has already been questioned by prosecutors over his alleged failure to protect federal forces sent into the region in the same case as Sanchez and Cuixart, but the request for his imprisonment has been denied.

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