Spain Won’t Arrest Separatist Leaders, Blames “Fake News” For Catalan Crisis
Following Catalan President Puigdemont’s address yesterday accusing Madrid of “the worst attack since Franco,” the Spanish government has urged Catalonians to accept direct control from Madrid and ignore seditious instructions from the pro-independence leaders.
Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis responded on Sunday with the call to obey Madrid.
“We are going to establish the authorities who are going to rule the day-to-day affairs of Catalonia according to the Catalan laws and norms … I hope everyone will disregard whatever instructions they will be planning to give because they will not have the legal authority to do that.”
However, Dastis sought to calm nerves in the region, saying Madrid would not conduct arrests among the pro-independence leadership, though two prominent secessionists were detained on court order this month on allegations of sedition.
“All the government is trying to do, and reluctantly, is to reinstate the legal order, to restore the constitution but also the Catalan rules and proceed from there,” Dastis told BBC TV.
“We are not going to arrest anyone.”
Of course, Dastis could not help himself but fall back on the establishment’s ‘excuse du jour’ for anything that does not fit with the maintenance of the status quo… “There has been a lot of alternative facts and fake news”
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) October 22, 2017
So just how will Madrid take control of Catalonia?
Below are details of the powers the Spanish government plans to assume for a maximum six months before regional elections are held as set out in a proposal to the upper house Senate. As Reuters reports, the measures were formulated under a constitutional provision never before invoked in Spain’s 40 years of democracy.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is asking for authorization to sack the regional government including president Carles Puigdemont and his deputy Oriol Junqueras, high-profile figures in the independence drive who organized a popular vote on secession on Oct. 1 in defiance of Madrid.
Central government ministries will take over the regional administration until calling fresh elections within six months of direct rule coming into force.
On Saturday, Rajoy said he wanted to convene a vote “as soon as we get back to institutional normality”.
The Catalan parliament will retain a representative role, but the government will operate under the supervision of bodies chosen or created for the purpose by Madrid.
The new administrators will take control of the Mossos d‘Esquadra regional police force, which has become embroiled in the controversy over the independence bid after allegedly failing to act to stop the referendum or protect national police who were drafted in to provide extra security.
The Mossos, whose chief is under investigation on suspicion of sedition, will have to act on direct orders from their new bosses. If deemed necessary, Mossos officers may be replaced by national police.
The Economy Ministry has already increased its control over regional finances, to block the use of state funds to organize the secession bid, and started paying directly for essential services. Under the new proposal, Madrid keeps financial control.
Widely-watched Catalan public television TV3 will come under central control. Madrid’s proposal to the Senate says this will ensure the information transmitted is “true, objective and balanced, in line with political, social and cultural pluralism, and territorial balance”.
The Senate, where Rajoy’s People’s Party has a majority, will vote on the proposal on Oct. 27. The opposition Socialist and Ciudadanos parties are backing Rajoy.
After the measures are approved, they can be activated immediately or put on hold to be implemented in the future. Puigdemont could call an election himself before the government’s plan comes into action, in which case direct rule would likely not be implemented.
Which would leave Catalan governed by ministers of a party that got just 8.5% of the vote at the last election…
— Kate Shea Baird (@KateSB) October 21, 2017
And what are the Catalan Separatists next moves?
Catalonia’s separatists were weighing their options Sunday, according to AFP, after Spain took drastic steps to stop the region from breaking away by dissolving its separatist government and forcing new elections.
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and his regional executive — who sparked Spain’s worst political crisis in decades by holding a banned independence referendum on October 1 — will be stripped of their jobs and their ministries taken over under measures announced Saturday by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
“Yesterday there was a fully-fledged coup against Catalan institutions,” said Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull.
“What happens now, with everyone in agreement and unity, is that we will announce what we will do and how,” he told Catalunya Radio.
Ahead of a meeting of Catalan parties Monday to organise a crucial session of the regional parliament to debate next steps, Turull insisted on RAC1 radio that elections were “not on the table”.
Political analysts warn that Madrid faces a serious struggle in practical terms to impose control over the region.
Potential scenarios include Catalan police and civil servants refusing to obey orders from central authorities.
“What is going to happen if they don’t abide by it?” said Xavier Arbos Marin, a constitutional law professor at the University of Barcelona, raising the prospect of the government trying to “take them out by force”.
He said there is fierce debate among experts over whether the government’s actions are even legal.
Independence supporters may also seek to scupper the plans through civil disobedience, such as surrounding regional ministries to thwart officials sent by Madrid.
“If police try to enter one of the Catalan institutions, there will be peaceful resistance,” said Ruben Wagensberg, spokesman for new activist group En Pie de Paz.
For now, the game of chicken continues with each side waiting for the other to act first but rest assured, says Spanish Foreign Mnister Dastis, if Catalonians just quietly accept the tyrannical rule of Madrid then…
“everything will be fine, there will be law and order, peaceful life and normal coexistence which is what we’re after.”