Spain Grabs Control Of Catalonian Government
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Spain Grabs Control Of Catalonian Government

Spain Grabs Control Of Catalonian Government

On October 28, 2017 (Saturday), Spain has taken formal direct control of Catalonia and dismissed its separatist government including Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, a day after lawmakers passed a declaration of independence for the prosperous northeastern region. The measures took effect hours after the regional parliament of Catalonia declared independence on October 27. 

Madrid's measures follow from Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which allows the government to take action against rebellious territories.

Speaking on October 28, Puigdemont called for "democratic opposition" to Madrid's takeover of the region following its declaration of independence.

In a pre-recorded televised statement, Puigdemont said only the regional parliament can elect or dismiss the Catalan government, vowing to "continue working to build a free country."

Puigdemont also said the activation of Article 155 of the constitution was illegitimate and called on Catalans to show "patience, perseverance," and faith in the future.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who now replaces Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont as the top decision-maker in the northeastern region, has dissolved the regional parliament. Rajoy has called for regional elections to be held on December 21.

The Spanish government has also fired the operational chief of Catalan's regional police force, Josep Lluis Trapero, the official government gazette said on October 28. Trapero was already under investigation for sedition after being accused of failing to help Spain's Guardia Civil police force deal with thousands of pro-independence protesters in Barcelona during the run-up to the October 1 independence referendum. Last week, Spain's High Court banned Trapero from leaving the country and seized his passport. He was not arrested.

After the regional parliament's independence vote, thousands in Barcelona flooded into the central square to celebrate the declaration, with many calling for the removal of the Spanish flag on top of the Catalonian government palace. Hundreds of antiseparatist protesters also took to the streets waving Spanish flags. More demonstrations are expected on October 28, with a rally "for the unity of Spain and the constitution" to be held in Madrid.

The crisis stems from the independence referendum conducted by leaders of Catalonia that Madrid called illegal and which was opposed by the European Union as well. Catalonia lawmakers said just over 90 percent of voters chose in favor of independence in the referendum, but with a turnout of less than 50 percent.

However, the level of support for independence in Catalonia is not clear. Surveys before the referendum indicated a minority of about 40 percent in the region favored a split, but many opposed to the referendum boycotted the vote.

Catalonia Secession

Spain's allies voiced their support for Madrid

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that Catalonia was an integral part of Spain and that Washington backed the Spanish government's measures to keep Spain united.

Many of the EU's 28 members have expressed concerns that move such as Catalonia's if allowed to succeed, could encourage secessionist movements in their countries.

EU President Donald Tusk wrote on Twitter after Catalonia's declaration that for the bloc, "nothing changes."

He said the EU will continue to deal only with Madrid, but added that "I hope the Spanish government favors force of argument, not an argument of force."

Catalonia, Spain's richest region, has a population of 7.5 million people, and has been a part of Spain since the 15th century but has a long history of separatist sentiment.

With reporting by Sky News, Reuters, AP, AF, dpa and the BBC