Spanish aim to sack Catalonia leaders

Randall Craig
October 22, 2017

Tens of thousands of independence supporters have gathered in the tense regional capital Barcelona, with Puigdemont, joining the crowds, due to give his response at 9:00 pm (2100 GMT).

The decision to press for the abolition of the Catalan leadership, impose direct rule and push for elections within six months followed a special cabinet meeting on Saturday morning, nearly three weeks after the controversial independence referendum took place.

But turnout was given as only 43 percent as many Catalans who back unity stayed away from the banned vote.

Pro-business Ciudadanos (Citizens) party president Albert Rivera says he supports the announced measures to heal divisions created by the Catalan independence movement and to provide the security companies need to remain in Catalonia.

Mr Puigdemont claimed the referendum result gave him a mandate to pursue independence.

"The Spanish government has undertaken the worse attack on the institutions and the people of Catalonia since [Francisco] Franco", Puigdemont said in an evening statement, referring to the dictator that ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975. Other Catalan leaders described it as a coup.

It will be the first time in Spain's four decades of democracy that Madrid has invoked the constitutional right to take control of a region and rule it directly from Madrid.

The Spanish government's proposed measures still have to be approved by the Senate. The article is only two paragraphs long and does not outline rules for implementation.

The goal is 'the return to legality and the recovery of institutional normalcy, ' the prime minister said Friday.

"We are not suspending Catalonia's autonomy nor its self-governance".

"We are not ending Catalan autonomy, but we are relieving of their duties those who have acted outside the law", Mr Rajoy said.

He says "we demand respect for Barcelona and the plurality of its members". He said a new regional election in Catalonia should be held in the next six months. Heavy-handed police tactics to shut down a an independence referendum on October 1 that the government had declared illegal drew criticism from human rights groups. Their duties will be carried out by the corresponding ministries in the Madrid government during what the government has declared a crisis.

El Pais, the Spanish newspaper, reports that the government will have the ability to take control of TV3, the primary television channel of Catalan public broadcaster TelevisiĆ³ de Catalunya, "to ensure the transmission of 'truthful and objective information balanced".

Rajoy is likely to announce plans to take control of Catalonia's 16,000-strong police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, whose leader Josep Lluis Trapero could face up to 15 years in jail on sedition charges for failing to contain separatist protests ahead of the referendum.

During the meeting, which started around 10:00 am (0800 GMT), Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his ministers will decide on what powers to take away from the wealthy region, which now enjoys wide autonomy including control over its own policing, education and healthcare. Spain has the euro zone's fourth-largest economy and Catalonia accounts for a fifth of it.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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