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Spain Dissolves Catalan Government as Puigdemont Calls to 'Resist'

Catalan President Carles Puidgemont during a televised recorded speech. | Photo: Reuters Catalan President Carles Puidgemont during a televised recorded speech. | Photo: Reuters
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has dissolved the Catalan Parliament, firing its President Carles Puigdemont and his government after the region voted to officially declare independence.

As part of Madrid's activation of Article 155, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria was chosen to assume the presidency until Dec. 21 when snap elections will be held. Saenz de Santamaria was vested total control over the Catalan administration in addition to being appointed president.

Puigdemont said it was an "attack against the will of the Catalan people" and called for "resisting repression and threats, without ever abandoning, at any time, civic and peaceful conduct." The former head of the region said only parliament can select or remove its leaders.

"Let's be patient, show perseverance, and hope," Puidgemont said in a televised recorded speech. "The best way to defend the advances is the democratic opposition to Article 155."

Josep Lluis Trapero was also relieved of his duty as chief of the Catalan police force by the central government.

Announcing snap local elections, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the imposition of direct rule on Catalonia under Article 155 of the country's constitution – unprecedented in the region's history – was necessary in order to "recover normality."

Since the Catalan Parliament unanimously voted for regional independence Friday, several European nations have spoken out against the unanimous decision. Government officials from Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany and Bulgaria all said they will not recognize a Catalan nation.

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Union Commission, expressed his disappointment in the Catalan move saying that Europe "doesn't need more fractures. We already have enough fissures and fractures" within the EU. He then reiterated that Catalan independence is an internal matter to Spain and that Brussels should not "intervene." Scottish officials congratulated the Catalan government's unilateral move.

Thousands of pro-independence supporters celebrated in the streets of Catalonia, waving regional flags and banners. An estimated 17,000 gathered outside of the government palace in Barcelona. Basque independence movement members, who have long sought independence from Spain, said on Twitter, "We salute the Catalan Republic and we celebrate your proclamation."

Meanwhile, an anti-independence rally in Madrid saw many fascist symbols from the Francisco Franco-era, with some protesters giving the fascist salute as they called for "saving Spain."

Fractures within the Catalan pro-independence have been revealed after the parliamentary vote. Miquel Iceta from the Catalan Socialist Party said in a statement that this was a "sad" day for Catalonia, and accused militant pro-independence parties Juntas for Yes and the Popular Unity Candidacy of being a "social minority" within the region and accused them of "unilaterally declaring the illegal and anti-democratic Republic of Catalonia.

After a tense session and several weeks of suspense, the Catalan regional government voted to break from Spain, with 70 votes in favor, 10 against and two abstentions.

The Spanish Senate swiftly responded to Catalonia's self-declared independence by voting to apply Article 155 of the country's constitution with 214 in favor, 47 against and one abstention.

Lawyers for the Spanish government told the Independent that the government is also looking to press charges of rebellion against those who were "responsible" for the successful independence vote.

The Rajoy administration is deciding whether the charges should be brought only against the Catalan cabinet, including Puigdemont and Vice President of the Catalan National Assembly Oriol Junqueras, or if the region's parliament and governing board should be included. The final decision could come by Monday.

The Catalan Parliament met to vote on the region's independence and respond to the Spanish Senate, which is set to “take over Catalonia's institutions and police, and give the central government the power to remove the Catalan president.”

The parties, JxSi and CUP wrote and internally approved a constitution for the Republic of Catalan.

Carlos Carrizosa, a representative of the opposition party Citizens, said the constitution was “illegitimate” and added that the independence movement was "sad and dramatic.”

"You’ll go down in history, but you won’t break up Spain. You won’t accomplish this." Carrizosa’s coalition gave him a standing ovation.

During her address to parliament, Marta Rovira of JxSi, said "I’m suffering political persecution for what I think. Remember we are here to complete the Oct. 1 mandate and protect the basic rights of democracy. The sovereignty is for the (Catalan) people and it always was.” She was interrupted several times by Carrizosa.

Following the announcement of Catalonia's independence, Rajoy called for "tranquility among all Spaniards." He added that the government "will restore legality in Catalonia."

  • Countries: Latin America