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Published On: Thu, Oct 19th, 2017

Deadline expired: Madrid on collision course with Barcelona

nsnbc : Spain’s federal government in Madrid has insisted that it will suspend Catalonia’s autonomy after the Catalan government refused to drop the bid for independence.

Rajoy_Puigdemont_Spain_Catalonia_oct 2017In a statement on Spain’s government website Thursday morning, the central government in Madrid said that the Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont had refused to comply with a request to confirm whether the region had declared independence.

Consequently, it said it would “continue with the procedures provided for in Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution to restore legality in the self-government of Catalonia.” Meaning, the government is set to meet Saturday to propose measures to strip Catalonia of some powers and officially trigger Article 155 of the Constitution. A passage at the end of the statement spelled out Madrid’s intention:

“No-one should doubt that the government will use all the tools available to restore as soon as possible the legality and the constitutional order, restore the peaceful coexistence between citizens and slow the political and judicial deterioration of which the only responsible people are leaders of the (Catalonia) Generalitat.”

Catalan leader Puigdemont was given a deadline – by many described as blackmail – until 10 a.m. local time Thursday to withdraw the non-activated declaration of independence he made last week. Before the deadline passed Puigdemont said the regional parliament could vote on a formal declaration of independence from Spain if no talks were held between Catalonia and Madrid.

Puigdemont refused to clarify his government’s intentions at an earlier deadline on Monday, at which point the Spanish government gave him one last chance to retract his equivocal response. What has become clear, however, is that Catalonia will respond with a full declaration of independence if Madrid suspends the region’s autonomy, imposes a state of national emergency, or otherwise attempts to further reduce the regions and its people’s right to self-determination.

With no last-minute change of heart, Rajoy has said he will invoke Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. It is described as the “nuclear option” because it would allow Madrid to take control of the region, following approval from the Spanish Senate. Critics describe the option as Francoesque.

The effects of Article 155 are not likely to be felt for several days due to it requiring approval from the upper house of parliament. The unprecedented triggering of Article 155 is a constitutional crisis for Spain, however, and is likely to spook financial markets. There could also be more social unrest in the wealthy northeastern region. Jordi Solé Ferrando, a member of the European Parliament for the Republican Left of Catalonia, said Thursday that the decision by Madrid was not expected as the separatists had “made room for dialogue.” The politician denied that Puigdemont was seeking conflict with Madrid and instead had in fact been attempting dialogue for many years.

The current political crisis facing Catalonia and Spain has been long-coming. There has been a strong sense of separatism and regional identity in Catalonia, a wealthy region in the northeast of Spain, for decades. There have also been several unrecognized and unofficial referenda on independence in recent years. The latest vote took place October 1 — 90 percent of 2.26 million regional voters opted for independence. Turnout was low at around 43 percent, however, and thousands of Catalans also took to the streets to protest against independence.

Puigdemont, following the declaration of independence, suspended it immediately, in an attempt to show Madrid that Catalonia has a mandate from the people but that the government is willing to negotiate with Madrid. Rajoy’s response was to paint Catalonia like a nail for then to use the nuclear hammer.

F/AK – nsnbc 19.10.2017

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