News Cat­alo­nia de­clares in­de­pen­dence from Spain

The Prince George Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - Wil­liam BOOTH, Pamela ROLFE The Wash­ing­ton Post

Cat­alo­nia de­clared an in­de­pen­dent repub­lic on Fri­day. But no­body is sure how long it will last. Within hours of Cat­alo­nia’s emo­tional vote, Spain’s prime min­is­ter an­nounced he would dis­man­tle the Cata­lan gov­ern­ment, sus­pend its min­is­ters, dis­solve its up­start par­lia­ment, take over the re­gional po­lice and call home any Cata­lan di­plo­mats abroad.

The or­ders were ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately. In a Europe where change once took place at a glacial pace, this was the lat­est sur­prise in con­ti­nent rocked by di­vi­sion and upset, pop­ulism and na­tion­al­ism.

But how the cen­tral gov­ern­ment will en­force its or­ders is the ques­tion ev­ery­one is ask­ing. Will the na­tional po­lice carry out the new order? Or will the sep­a­ratist lead­ers in Barcelona step aside to fight another day?

The Span­ish Se­nate gave the cen­tral gov­ern­ment in Madrid un­prece­dented and sweep­ing pow­ers over Cat­alo­nia on Fri­day, sharply es­ca­lat­ing the con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis.

Spain’s cen­tral gov­ern­ment called for a clean slate and an­nounced there would be re­gional elec­tions in late De­cem­ber.

But how new elec­tions will quiet yearn­ings for in­de­pen­dence in Cat­alo­nia is un­clear.

It is pos­si­ble that more Cata­lans than ever now want to break away from heavy-handed Spain.

The no-non­sense an­nounce­ment of the get-tough mea­sures against Cat­alo­nia came just hours after the Cata­lan Par­lia­ment de­clared in­de­pen­dence and the streets of Barcelona filled with cel­e­brants, swill­ing cans of beer and spark­ing wine, wav­ing Cata­lan flags and greet­ing each other in par­tial amaze­ment.

Many wept openly, in­clud­ing those old enough to re­mem­ber the dic­ta­tor­ship of Fran­cisco Franco, whose death in 1975 freed Spain to chart its mod­ern course.

Oth­ers came out to taunt the Na­tional Po­lice sent by Madrid.

There was cel­e­bra­tion – but mixed with anx­ious jokes about when Span­ish tanks would ap­pear to take back the streets.

The day’s news came fast and fu­ri­ous.

In Spain on Fri­day there were two his­toric and op­pos­ing votes – one for in­de­pen­dence, one to re­store con­sti­tu­tional rule – that came in duel­ing ses­sions of par­lia­ments in Barcelona and Madrid.

The cen­tral gov­ern­ment eas­ily won per­mis­sion from the se­nate to take con­trol of Cat­alo­nia. Mean­while, se­ces­sion­ists in Cat­alo­nia faced bit­ter re­crim­i­na­tions from Cata­lan foes who called the move for na­tion­hood a coup and a his­toric blun­der, a month after a ref­er­en­dum that backed a split from Spain.

The widen­ing im­passe has left scant mid­dle ground in Spain for com­pro­mise and has spilled over to the Euro­pean Union, whose lead­ers fear another in­ter­nal cri­sis after ma­jor up­heavals such as Bri­tain’s exit from the bloc and the fi­nan­cial melt­down in Greece.

Im­me­di­ately after the vote for in­de­pen­dence, Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk tweeted: “For EU noth­ing changes. Spain re­mains our only in­ter­locu­tor. I hope the Span­ish gov­ern­ment favours force of ar­gu­ment, not ar­gu­ment of force.”

Tusk’s re­marks mir­ror fears in Cat­alo­nia that the Span­ish gov­ern­ment will em­ploy riot po­lice and harsh tac­tics to take back con­trol of the re­gion.

After the day’s votes, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion came down on the side of Madrid.

“Cat­alo­nia is an in­te­gral part of Spain, and the United States sup­ports the Span­ish gov­ern­ment’s con­sti­tu­tional mea­sures to keep Spain strong and united,” the State Depart­ment said in a state­ment.

What hap­pens now is un­clear, though the newly de­clared repub­lic will strug­gle to as­sert it­self.

Spain’s Con­sti­tu­tional Court will judge the uni­lat­eral as­ser­tion of in­de­pen­dence il­le­gal, and few coun­tries in Europe have shown any will­ing­ness to rec­og­nize an in­de­pen­dent Cat­alo­nia.

In the Cata­lan Par­lia­ment there was plenty of ev­i­dence of another lop­sided and clumsy vote.

The fi­nal bal­lot was 70 to 10 in fa­vor of the dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence, but 55 deputies de­clined to vote, un­der­lin­ing the deep di­vi­sions.

“We have won the free­dom to build a new coun­try,” Cat­alo­nia’s re­gional vice pres­i­dent, Oriol Jun­queras, tweeted.

En­carna Buitrago was with her friends in a flag-wav­ing crowd in front of the par­lia­ment in Barcelona when in­de­pen­dence was de­clared.

“Now we need to sup­port our Cata­lan gov­ern­ment. To go out to the streets! And now it’s up to the peo­ple,” said Buitrago, a pen­sioner. “If we are all to­gether, we can do it.”

But quickly after­ward, Spain’s Se­nate in­voked the never-be­foreused Ar­ti­cle 155 of Spain’s 1978 con­sti­tu­tion, which grants the gov­ern­ment full pow­ers to take over Cat­alo­nia.

Span­ish Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy told the Se­nate that his gov­ern­ment had re­peat­edly tried to rein in the se­ces­sion­ists in Cat­alo­nia. He scoffed at Cata­lan Pres­i­dent Car­les Puigde­mont’s of­fers of “di­a­logue” to end the im­passe.

“The word di­a­logue is a lovely word. It cre­ates good feel­ings,” Ra­joy said.

“But di­a­logue has two en­e­mies: those who abuse, ig­nore and for­get the laws, and those who only want to lis­ten to them­selves, who do not want to un­der­stand the other party.”

Ra­joy urged the Se­nate to ap­prove Ar­ti­cle 155 “to pre­vent Cat­alo­nia from be­ing abused.”

“Cata­lans must be pro­tected from an in­tol­er­ant mi­nor­ity that is award­ing it­self own­er­ship of Cat­alo­nia, and is try­ing to sub­ject all Cata­lans to the yoke of its own doc­trine,” the prime min­is­ter said.

Other Span­ish po­lit­i­cal par­ties also spoke out against Cat­alo­nia’s dec­la­ra­tion.

Pe­dro Sanchez, leader of Spain’s So­cial­ist party, said de­spite his dis­agree­ments with Ra­joy’s gov­ern­ment, “faced with the chal­lenge of ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of Spain, there can be no nu­ance. Spain with­out Cat­alo­nia and vice versa is a mu­ti­lated Spain and Cat­alo­nia.”

— Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy

AP PHOTO

Pro-in­de­pen­dence demon­stra­tors cheer out­side the Cata­lan par­lia­ment in Barcelona, Spain, on Fri­day. Cata­lan law­mak­ers voted Fri­day to se­cede from Spain, shortly be­fore Spain’s Se­nate ap­proved a re­quest by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment to take di­rect con­trol of Cat­alo­nia’s af­fairs.

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