Invasion of Catalonia an option, says general


A Spanish general has suggested that the armed forces should consider invading Catalonia if the region attempts to break away from the rest of the country.

Juan Antonio Chicharro, a general in the marine reserve, warned that patriotic sentiment would take precedence over democratic rules in the face of a “separatist-secessionist offensive” by the northeastern region.

‘The fatherland’

“The fatherland is above and more important than democracy,” he said. “Patriotism is a feeling and the constitution is just a law.”

He made his comments at a conference in Madrid in early February, but they only came to light when El País newspaper published details of the event on Wednesday. The conference was titled “Armed Forces and Constitutional Order” and several respected academic and judicial figures were present.

The defence ministry opened an investigation yesterday to decide whether to sanction Gen Chicharro.

Nationalists governing Catalonia want to hold a referendum there on independence in 2014. However, the central government in Madrid insists such a move would be illegal and has vowed to oppose the staging of the vote through constitutional means.

But in his speech, Gen Chicharro warned that problems will arise “if the mechanisms of defence of the constitutional order do not behave as their duties require”. Asked what the armed forces should do in such a situation, he made it clear he favoured some form of physical response.

Rhetorical questions

Most of his most provocative assertions were presented as rhetorical questions or possible scenarios, but those present clapped and cheered when he finished speaking.

This is not the first time a member of the armed forces has backed military intervention to stop Catalan independence plans. In September, Col Francisco Alamán said the military will defend Spain’s unity “with our lives” .