Catalan separatists vow disobedience as Spain standoff mounts

Agence France-Presse
Catalan separatists vow disobedience as Spain standoff mounts


(3rd UPDATE) The Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) party denounces Madrid's plans as the 'biggest aggression' against the Catalan people since the Franco dictatorship

BARCELONA, Spain (3rd UPDATE) – Catalan separatists Monday, October 23, threatened “mass civil disobedience” against the Spanish government if it fulfils its vow to depose the region’s secessionist leader to stifle his drive for independence.

Firefighters, teachers and students weighed into the dispute, warning of strikes and protests, at the start of a crucial week in Spain’s deepest political crisis in decades.

Madrid has said it will suspend the powers of the semi-autonomous region, where separatist leaders held a banned independence referendum on October 1.

Catalonia’s separatist parties announced they would hold a full session Thursday to decide their response.

That could be an opportunity for the region to follow through on threats to declare unilateral independence from Spain, a prospect that has raised fears of unrest.

The Senate is set to suspend the territory’s limited self-rule in a meeting expected Friday.

Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said Catalan President Carles Puigdemont will be out of a job as soon as this weekend.

“He will no longer be able to sign anything, he will no longer be able to take decisions, he will no longer receive a salary,” Saenz de Santamaria told radio Onda Cero.

‘Institutional violence’

The far-left Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), which backs Puigdemont’s coalition, said Madrid’s post-referendum clampdown was the “biggest assault” against the Catalan people since the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

Franco – who ruled from 1939 until 1975 – suppressed Catalonia’s autonomy, language and culture.

“This assault will receive a response in the form of massive civil disobedience,” the CUP, a key regional power broker, said in a statement.

Lluis Corominas, spokesman of the Together for Yes ruling coalition, meanwhile urged a “peaceful and democratic defence of Catalan institutions”.

He branded the Spanish response to the independence drive “a case of unprecedented institutional violence”.

Protests, strikes

Catalan firefighters hinted they may offer resistance in the dispute by refusing to obey orders from national authorities.

“It depends on what they ask us to do. If there is a road that is blocked and they send us to unblock it, maybe we won’t go,” said a spokesman for a firefighter association associated to the separatist movement.

Teachers called a protest march for Thursday, and students said they will go on strike from that day.

Half a million angry separatists took to the streets of Barcelona on Saturday after Rajoy announced he would replace Puigdemont and his executive.

To do so, Madrid will use previously untested constitutional powers to stop Catalonia breaking away.

Forceful takeover?

Under Article 155 of the 1978 Spanish constitution, Madrid could take control of the Catalan police force and replace the heads of its public broadcaster.

Political analysts warn that Madrid faces a serious struggle in practical terms to impose control over the region, especially if civil servants refuse to obey orders from central authorities.

Xavier Arbos Marin, a constitutional law professor at the University of Barcelona, raised the prospect of the government trying to “take them out by force”.

Until now, Catalonia controlled its own policing, education and healthcare, but discontent has grown in recent years of economic crisis. Separatists are demanding greater control for the region over its finances.

The region of 7.5 million people is protective of its culture, language and autonomy, though polls indicate its inhabitants are divided on whether to break away from Spain.

Puigdemont says 90% of those who voted in the referendum backed a split from Spain, but turnout was estimated at 43%.

Anti-independence Catalans, who argue the region is stronger as part of a united Spain, stayed away.

Brexit, Italy referenda

The Senate is set to approve the final course of action by the end of the week.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party holds a majority in the upper house.

Under the constitutional procedure, elections for a new Catalan parliament must be held within six months. A newspaper poll suggested that secessionist parties may jointly win a majority once again.

There is debate among experts over whether the government’s actions are even legal, however, the law expert Arbos Marin said.

The crisis has rattled a European Union already grappling with Brexit.

Two of Italy’s wealthiest northern regions, Veneto and Lombardy, voted overwhelmingly in favour of greater autonomy in non-binding referenda on Sunday.

Organizers said they were seeking greater autonomy and to reduce their regions’ tax contributions to Rome rather than looking to secede. –

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