Fighting talk from Spain PM Rajoy on Catalan breakaway

PM suggests he may use courts to block move as separatists eye quick seceession

Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy: Vowed  to thwart Catalan independence. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters

Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy: Vowed to thwart Catalan independence. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters

 

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has vowed to do everything in his power to thwart Catalan separatist parties, who Tuesday formalised their intention to break away from Spain.

The Junts pel Sí (or Together for Yes) coalition and the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) registered in the Catalan parliament a declaration of intent which is expected to be approved by the chamber next week and envisages independence within 18 months.

The nine-point document states that the result of a Catalan regional election last month, treated by nationalists as a plebiscite on independence, gives the two parties a mandate to proceed with the process. Junts pel Sí won the election, but needed CUP’s seats to secure a majority in the parliament. Together the two parties won 48 per cent of votes.

Mistreated

Artur Mas, the region’s nationalist premier, has led the independence drive, which is based on claims that Madrid has consistently mistreated Catalonia financially and politically.

The resolution also rejects the legitimacy of Spain’s institutions, declaring that “this parliament and the process of democratic disconnection will not be subordinate to the decisions of the Spanish state, in particular the Constitutional Court”.

According to the independence roadmap, the institutions and laws of an independent Catalonia will be created between now and spring of 2017.

Prime minister Mariano Rajoy took the unusual step of responding to the separatist resolution by making a live address on television yesterday, insisting that he will block the plan.

“The government guarantees and will guarantee that they will not achieve their objectives and that if [the resolution] is approved, none of it will be implemented,” he said.

“As long as I am head of the government of a nation of free and equal citizens, justice will prevail over injustice.”

Mr Rajoy added that, if necessary, he will “make the law felt” in preventing Catalan secession, suggesting he will use the courts to block the initiative.

The prime minister made telephone calls to two opposition leaders, Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party and Albert Rivera of Ciudadanos, to inform them of the content of his statement yesterday. Both parties oppose the Catalan independence drive, although the socialists advocate increased autonomy for the region.

On Monday, the new speaker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell of Junts pel Sí, paved the way for the controversial resolution with her instatement speech, which expressed separatist ambitions and concluded: “Long live democracy, long live the sovereign people and long live the Catalan republic!”

The response to that speech reflected how divided Catalonia and its parliament is over the independence issue. While pro-independence politicians welcomed it, Xabier García Albiol, of Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP) described it as a “perversion of parliament” and Inés Arrimadas of Ciudadanos said Ms Forcadell had “excluded half of Catalans”.

The Catalan political situation was further inflamed yesterday as police carried out a series of raids as part of a corruption investigation into the family of Jordi Pujol, the former nationalist premier of Catalonia.

The searches took place simultaneously yesterday morning in 15 properties belonging to Mr Pujol (85) and three of his sons in Madrid and Barcelona. The investigation is into alleged tax fraud and money laundering.

Three decades

Although Pujol senior was not the target of this particular operation, he is already being investigated in connection with a fortune that he kept hidden for more than three decades before declaring it to tax authorities last year. Investigators doubt the former Catalan leader’s claim that he inherited the money from his father.

The premier of the region from 1980 to 2003, Mr Pujol is seen as the godfather of modern Catalan nationalism and he was a mentor to current premier Mr Mas. The Spanish government says that such corruption scandals in Catalonia undermine the separatists’ argument that the rest of the country is embezzling their region.

Last Friday, Mr Mas appeared in the Catalan parliament to deny that his Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC) party had been involved in a widespread scam which allegedly included charging illegal commissions on public works contracts. Several politicians and businessmen close to his party have been arrested.

Mr Mas and his supporters claim the Spanish government is orchestrating the investigations in an attempt to derail the independence process.