Catalan officials warn of rebellion against Spain’s direct rule plan

Region’s parliament to debate response to Spanish government’s move on Thursday

Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia’s president, applauds during a demonstration against the Spanish government and the imprisonment of separatist leaders, in Barcelona on Saturday.  Photograph: Angel Garcia/Bloomberg

Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia’s president, applauds during a demonstration against the Spanish government and the imprisonment of separatist leaders, in Barcelona on Saturday. Photograph: Angel Garcia/Bloomberg

 

The Spanish government’s plan to introduce direct rule in Catalonia is under scrutiny, with the region’s current administration warning that civil servants will resist the move and some factions calling for an immediate declaration of independence in response to it.

On Saturday, the central government of Mariano Rajoy started triggering article 155 of the constitution, allowing it to take control of devolved Catalan institutions, in an effort to halt the region’s bid for independence. Mr Rajoy plans to sack the entire Catalan government, putting their portfolios under the control of his own ministers.

But on Monday, Raül Romeva, head of the region’s foreign affairs department, told the BBC that “the people and the institutions in Catalonia will not let this happen” and added that “all the civil servants in Catalonia will follow instructions provided by the elected and legitimate institutions that we have right now in place”.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont on Saturday described the Spanish government’s decision to impose direct rule as “the worst attack on the institutions and people of Catalonia since the era of the dictator Francisco Franco”. On Monday, the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), an anti-capitalist party whose support allows Mr Puigdemont to govern, echoed that sentiment and urged Catalans “to give a response in the form of mass civil disobedience”.

Spain’s deputy prime minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, played down the chances of such a rebellion when asked what would happen if senior members of the Catalan government refused to step down from their posts.

“Once the officials are replaced, they stop holding that position in every legal sense, however much they might want to live in their parallel world,” she said, adding that Catalans “must not be affected by disobedient or rebellious attitudes”.

Direct rule

One of the many areas expected to come under the command of Madrid is the Catalan regional police, the Mossos d’Esquadra. The Spanish authorities have accused the force of disloyalty in recent weeks and its chief, Josep Lluís Trapero, is being investigated for sedition, after failing to prevent the controversial independence referendum of October 1st from taking place.

A small secessionist group in the force, called Mossos for Independence, suggested it will refuse to take orders from Madrid. “We go together with the Catalan government,” said their spokesman, Albert Donaire. However, some other factions within the force have said they will obey Madrid if required.

On Friday, the senate is expected to debate and approve the direct rule plan.

The Spanish government has invited Mr Puigdemont to the senate before that session, as the article 155 procedure stipulates. Local media reported that he plans to accept, in order to argue against the use of the clause.

But on Thursday, the Catalan parliament will debate its response to the triggering of the article, with many of Mr Puigdemont’s allies openly advocating a unilateral declaration of independence.

Among them is the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), which is part of the region’s governing coalition. ERC spokesman Sergi Sabrià said the best answer “is to declare independence and establish the Catalan republic.”

Alternatively, Mr Puigdemont could call a regional election before he is removed from office, although his government has said it is not considering that option.