By Austin Anderholt | SPAIN
The Spanish government is set to impose direct rule over Catalonia after the president of the east Spanish municipality refused to end the push for Catalan independence. The event is creating one of the biggest Spanish political meltdowns of the millennium. The Spanish government is pushing for the “Nuclear Option” of the Spanish constitution, also known as article 155, allows the Spanish government to directly control any rebellious self-governing Spanish communities. It would give Madrid the authority to suspend Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and other Catalan lawmakers and to take charge of the region’s autonomous administration, including the Catalan broadcaster and autonomous police force, although the Spanish Prime Minister has not publicly committed to an emergency intervention.
The statement came after Puigdemont threatened to secede if the Spanish government refused to discuss the issue of independence. The Spanish government commented Thursday morning, saying Puigdemont had ignored its calls to drop his independence plans and had once again failed to confirm whether independence had actually been declared. Madrid’s government took this a reason to declare that article 155 of the Spanish constitution would be invoked to begin the process of occupying the region’s self-government. “At an emergency meeting on Saturday, the cabinet will approve measures to be put before the senate to protect the general interest of Spaniards, including the citizens of Catalonia, and to restore constitutional order in the autonomous community,” it said.
The Spanish government also called out the Catalan government for “deliberately and systematically seeking institutional confrontation, despite the serious damage it is causing to coexistence and Catalonia’s economy”. The Spanish government announced it will have an emergency cabinet meeting “to defend the general interest of Spaniards, among them the citizens of Catalonia.” But on Thursday, Puigdemont wrote a letter to the Spanish Prime Minister, stating “If the government continues to prevent dialogue and maintains the repression,’’ he wrote, “the Parliament of Catalonia could go ahead, if it deems it opportune, and vote the formal declaration of independence.”
About 200,000 pro-Catalan protesters gathered on Tuesday in central Barcelona, to demand the release of two Catalan separatists, who were sent to prison without bail. In his letter on Thursday, Mr. Puigdemont mentioned the arrest of the two separatists as evidence of Spain’s repressive stance. Catalonia, which is culturally and linguistically distant from Spain, is an important powerhouse of the Spanish economy. Independence cries have skyrocketed in recent years over a host of social and economic grievances.
Although Catalan independence movements date back to the medieval times, tensions climaxed to their current status after an overwhelming support of 90% of participating voters casted their ballots to secede from Spain. Despite this massive uproar for Catalan independence, Madrid declared the vote illegal, resulting in hundreds wounded in police blockading polling places.
France and Germany both appear to side with Madrid and Spanish unity, in statements made by their leaders, Emmanuel Macron, and Angela Merkel, respectively. The European Union has also declared their public endorsement of a United Spain.