Yesterday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced plans to remove the democratically elected regional government of Catalonia and replace them with direct rule by the national government in Madrid.
The Catalan independence movement gained strength as Rajoy's government took a series of escalating, authoritarian steps to prevent an independence referendum, culminating in an orgy of violence against people going to the ballot box that left people around the world agog and revolted, and bolstered the case for Catalan independence further.
Rajoy justifies his seizure of power by invoking the never-deployed Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, a broadly worded and untested clause that gives the central government the power to intervene in the semi-autonomous regions when a regional government "fails to fulfill the obligations imposed upon it by the Constitution or other laws, or acts in a way seriously prejudicing the general interests of Spain."
The imposition of unilateral power and ouster of elected officials is particularly troubling for Spaniard who remember the fascist dictatorship of the Franco regime, which only ended in 1975.
Mr. Puigdemont led a mass demonstration of 450,000 people in Barcelona, the region's capital, on Saturday afternoon.
In a televised address late Saturday, Mr. Puigdemont said he would convene Parliament next week to discuss the response to Mr. Rajoy; he did not rule out using the session to declare independence. He accused the Spanish government of trying to "eliminate our self-government and our democracy."
In a part of his speech delivered in English, Mr. Puigdemont also addressed Europe's politicians and citizens and suggested Europe's "foundational values are at risk" in the dispute with Madrid. "Democratically deciding the future of a nation is not a crime," he argued.
Other Catalan separatist politicians warned that Mr. Rajoy's announcement would escalate rather than resolve the conflict.
Spain Will Remove Catalonia Leader, Escalating Secession Crisis
[Raphael Minder/New York Times]
(via Naked Capitalism)
(Image: Pitxiquin, CC-BY-SA)