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Spain Moves to Remove Catalonia Government, Impose Direct Rule

Spain Moves to Remove Catalonia Government, Impose Direct Rule

Catalan officials call the plan a “coup”

Since their successful independence referendum, Catalonia has been under pressure, including reported violence against and arrests of pro-independence Catalans.  With no support from the EU or the U. S., Catalonia stands alone as the Spanish Prime Minister announced that he will be removing Catalan government officials and imposing direct rule.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced that he is invoking Article 155 of the constitution to “restore the rule of law, coexistence and the economic recovery and to ensure that elections could be held in normal circumstances.”  Direct rule will reportedly be in place next weekend.

The Guardian reports:

Spain was plunged deep into political crisis on Saturday after the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, announced that he is stripping Catalonia of its autonomy and imposing direct rule from Madrid in a bid to crush the regional leadership’s move to secede.

The decision, which prompted fear and anger across Catalonia, has dramatically escalated Spain’s deepest constitutional crisis since the restoration of democracy in 1977. Observers say the move could raise the spectre of Basque nationalism, and have repercussions across a Europe that is facing the rise of nationalist and separatist movements.

Following an emergency cabinet meeting Saturday morning, Rajoy said he was invoking Article 155 of the constitution to “restore the rule of law, coexistence and the economic recovery and to ensure that elections could be held in normal circumstances”.

Pending almost certain approval in the senate on Friday, direct rule will be imposed as of next weekend. Citing the Catalan government’s “conscious and systematic rebellion and disobedience”, Rajoy said Carles Puigdemont’s government would be stripped of its powers and its functions would be assumed by the relevant ministries in Madrid.

The Speaker of the Catalan government has responded by calling the move a “coup” and “an attack against democracy.”

Reuters reports:

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s decision to fire Catalonia’s government and force a new election is a “coup” and an “attack against democracy”, the speaker of the Catalan parliament said on Saturday.

“Prime Minister Rajoy wants the parliament of Catalonia to stop being a democratic parliament, and we will not allow this to happen,” Carme Forcadell said in a televised speech.

“This is why we want to send to the citizens of this country a message of firmness and hope. We commit today, after the most serious attack against the Catalan institutions since they were restored, to the defense of the sovereignty of the parliament of Catalonia,” she said.

The New York Times has more details about the proposed changes and the plan to lift Article 155 measures as soon as possible.

. . . . Mr. Rajoy said he planned to remove Mr. Puigdemont, and the rest of his separatist administration from office. The central government was also poised to take charge of Catalonia’s autonomous police force and the Catalan center for telecommunications.

Mr. Rajoy did not ask to dissolve the Catalan Parliament, but instead said that the president of the assembly would not be allowed to take any initiative judged to be contrary to Spain’s Constitution for a period of 30 days, including trying to propose another leader to replace Mr. Puigdemont.

Mr. Rajoy said that his goal was to arrange new Catalan elections within six months, so as to lift the measures taken under Article 155 as soon as possible.

It’s unclear, however, how such elections would be organized or whether they would significantly change Catalonia’s political landscape, let alone help to resolve the territorial conflict.

This is an unprecedented move by the Spanish government and has escalated the crisis over Catalan independence.

The New York Times continues:

It was the first time that Spain’s government had moved to strip the autonomy of one of its 17 regions, and the first time that a leader had invoked Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution — a broad tool intended to protect the “general interests” of the nation.

The unexpectedly forceful moves by Mr. Rajoy, made after an emergency cabinet meeting, thrust Spain into uncharted waters. The prime minister is trying to put down one of the gravest constitutional crises his country has faced since embracing democracy after the death of its dictator Gen. Francisco Franco in 1975.

. . . .  Several Catalan separatist politicians, however, reacted immediately to Mr. Rajoy’s announcement, warning that it would escalate rather than resolve the conflict.

Josep Lluís Cleries, a Catalan Senator, told reporters on Saturday that Mr. Rajoy was suspending not autonomy in Catalonia but democracy.

Carme Forcadell, the separatist president of the Catalan Parliament, pledged on Saturday evening to defend “the sovereignty” of her assembly. “We will not take a step back,” she told a news conference. “Mr. Rajoy isn’t conscious that by attacking the institutions, he is attacking the society of this country.”


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Contrary to what Chevy Chase used to repeatedly assure us, fascist President Francisco Franco remains alive and well. His spirit has just taken up residence in Mariano Rajoy.

I would hope and expect the Catalonians’ initial response will be one of non-violent non-cooperation.

    Free State Paul in reply to Wisewerds. | October 22, 2017 at 4:07 am

    Don’t disrespect Franco. He is one of the 20th Century’s greatest heroes. Not only did he save Spain from Communism, but he kept her out of WW2. The people of Spain owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

      He saved Spain from communism but subjected it to fascism, which is the same thing with a different label.

      And how is keeping it out of WW2 a good thing? Spain should have been in the war — on our side.

“Since their successful independence referendum…”

What? “successful”? Illegal actually; I have no opinion on the basic issue of Catalonia’s bid for independence, but the facts are these:

1. Spain’s constitution was ratified by all the country’s regions-including by 95% of voters in Catalonia-in 1978

2. There’s no clause in that constitution allowing any region to secede. Catalonia agreed to this in 1978.

3. Any independence referendum is illegal under that constitution and the central Spanish government is within its rights to invoke the same constitution to establish direct rule.

Those are the facts and the rest is just noise.

    Wisewerds in reply to Ulises. | October 21, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    Whether the referendum was “legal” is utterly irrelevant. There are some questions large enough that they should not, and cannot, be decided by reference to what is “legal.”

    “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, . . .”

    If your standard is what is “legal,” then I hope you have been remitting tax payments to the English Exchequer for your entire life!

      rabidfox in reply to Wisewerds. | October 21, 2017 at 6:16 pm

      OTOH, the Civil War here in the US determined that ‘legal’ does actually have meaning. Something that California might consider. If Catalonia wants independence from Spain then they will need a revolution to do it. Spain, naturally, doesn’t want to lose this valuable province. Right now, Spain has their law – ratified by Catalonia – on their side.

        By the time this thing is over Catalonia won’t be as valuable; already there’s an exodus of Catalonian companies out of the region. CaixaBank is Spain’s largest and it was based in Barcelona until early this month; now it moved it’s headquarters to Valencia because they don’t want to lose access to the EU (because there’s no way that Spain would allow Catalonia to join). They also hate the instability of this situation.

        Read more here:

        Milhouse in reply to rabidfox. | October 22, 2017 at 12:33 am

        OTOH, the Civil War here in the US determined that ‘legal’ does actually have meaning.

        No, it didn’t. All it established is that the victors write the laws.

        Bucky Barkingham in reply to rabidfox. | October 22, 2017 at 7:34 am

        So is Calexit illegal? If California does vote to secede what next? This isn’t 1860.

          Basically, a collection of people in cannot run off with valuable property; that is called theft. Those Californians who seek independence can claim the Aleutian Islands, Baffin Island or some such barren wasteland with a much less trouble.

          The USA does own 45.8% of California, and presumably would continue to have title to that land in an independent California, unless the new government decided to compulsorily acquire it and pay the USA just compensation. But CA would also be entitled to its share of the USA’s property, which is the common property of the states.

          Bucky Barkingham: So is Calexit illegal?

          While there is no explicit provision in the U.S. Constitution for secession, presumably it would require consent of the states, if not a Constitutional Amendment.

        DaveGinOly in reply to rabidfox. | October 22, 2017 at 11:06 am

        History is written, and law is dictated, by the victors. Although the Confederacy started the shooting (and therefore the war), SCOTUS had to justify the forced re-unification that followed the South’s defeat.

        SCOTUS, IMHO, was wrong. The Constitution is a constitution of government – it grants nearly no authority to infringe upon the rights of the States or the people. Although there is no mechanism built into it that permits the federal government to eject a member State, the States, and their citizens, retained that political authority not expressly delegated to the federal government. If the States were competent to determine that participation in the Union was beneficial to them and to join the Union (i.e. to make a determination to participate in the Union or not), they are certainly competent to determine if an when participation in the Union is no longer beneficial (see the quote from the Declaration of Independence, above). See the Ninth Amendment – powers not prohibited to the States have been retained by them.

        Surely, Great Britain thought the colonies had no authority to claim independence, but the colonies did so anyway. To deny the authority of a region’s people to determine their form of government themselves, is to deny the legitimacy of the United States’ existence.

          DaveGinOly: To deny the authority of a region’s people to determine their form of government themselves, is to deny the legitimacy of the United States’ existence.

          “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes”

      Olinser in reply to Wisewerds. | October 21, 2017 at 6:28 pm

      He’s saying there is no LEGAL mechanism by which Catalonia can succeed.

      So this isn’t a coup, its the Spanish government enforcing its law.

      In other words, if Catalonia wants independence its going to have to fight for it themselves, no other country is going to get involved to help them (which is clearly what they’re HOPING for by pontificating about a ‘coup’ against them).

      You forget the small detail that the 13 colonies had to fight their way to independence; also, today’s Spain is not England in the 18th century. Spain is a modern democracy with a constitution ratified by all its regions…including Catalonia. The 13 colonies that became the USA actually had valid grievances against the English crown; Catalonia? They’re basically saying “we’re better than the other people we’re sharing the country with, so we want out”. It’s their right if that’s what they want, but Spain has the law (again..the law that Catalonia endorsed in 1978) on their side.

      Wisewerds: “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, . . .”

      “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes”

    Milhouse in reply to Ulises. | October 22, 2017 at 12:32 am

    A referendum is pure speech, and can never be illegal. Any legal system that purports to forbid it is by definition illegitimate.

    As for your argument that the Catalans’ vote in 1978 precludes future generations of Catalans from ever seeking independence, please to distingish this from the Nonjurors’ position in the Glorious Revolution.

    DaveGinOly in reply to Ulises. | October 22, 2017 at 10:52 am

    “…Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Damn site harder to do this to an armed population.

Major parallels with PDRK… Peoples Democratic Republik of Kalifornia. Self-importance when they see themselves superior to the rest of the county. With no legal mechanism for departure all that is left is conflict and bent feelings.

Free State Paul | October 21, 2017 at 5:29 pm

I have no dog in the Spain/Catalonia fight. But if California tries to secede I saw we wage a cruel and prolonged war upon it, kill hundreds of thousands of its young men, burn its cities and leave its economy in ruins for generations.

I mean, it’s the principle of the thing!

    Tom Servo in reply to Free State Paul. | October 22, 2017 at 9:28 am

    If you’re going to seriously war-game such an idea (and I acknowledge that it is a silly exercise) then California is very simple to take down – send military units to seize about a dozen major power plants and shut them down, and dynamite all major transmission lines.

    And there are only 3 major cities that an opponent would need to target. Imagine San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Sacramento with no electricity for 2 full weeks. The rioting and the chaos would be unimaginable, and California (such as it is) would collapse without a shot being fired.

    Modern technologically dependent cities are incredibly vulnerable to even the slightest disruption in their supply lines.

“ You can join but you can never leave” sounds rather like communism to me. That is the law, But the law defines might, what is right is another matter.

Subotai Bahadur | October 21, 2017 at 10:16 pm

Speaking purely for political effect:

1) Catalans consider themselves as distinct from other Spaniards. It may or may not be true, but what people believe guides their actions.

2) Up until this moment, recognized or not by the Central Government, Catalonia has only used peaceful and electoral means.

3) They have been answered by armed violence committed by masked, armed government thugs who apparently are above the law.

4) Now the Central Government is withdrawing the right of local government, ruling directly from Madrid with no pretense of consent of the governed, and the results of any elections in the future carried out under those conditions carry the taint of being falsified for the benefit of the Central Government.

Now I also have no dog in this fight as regards Catalan independence. But it sure looks like some idiot in Madrid is doing his/her best to set up an ideal breeding ground for a 4GW/5GW insurgency.

The government in Madrid has technical law on their side. However, how they chose to enforce it calls into question their own legitimacy.

This is going to get extremely untidy. The loyalty of Catalonia to the rest of Spain will be in question and probably actual dispute for generations. It will make our Hatfields and McCoys look like a preschool sandbox squabble.

    Subotai Bahadur in reply to Subotai Bahadur. | October 21, 2017 at 10:18 pm

    Looking back, I mis-spoke. First sentence should be, “Speaking purely for political analysis.”. It has been a long day, and I don’t know where that “effect” came from.

To repeat more clearly what I wrote above: Regardless of whether Catalans have the right to independence, there can be no question whatsoever that they had the right to want it, to demand it, and to express that demand by means of a referendum. No country has the right to make a law banning this. And a government that beats people up in the street for the crime of voting loses all legitimacy. Such a government has no right to govern, no matter how many people voted for it.

Some people here would apparently argue that men (long dead) have the authority to bind together (in perpetuity) generations of a people (yet unborn), and those future generations have no recourse to unbind themselves unless a majority of those bound together with them decide to permit them to leave.