MADRID/BARCELONA: Sacked Catalonian president Carles Puigdemont on Saturday called for peaceful “democratic opposition” to the central government’s takeover of the region following its unilateral declaration of independence from Spain.
Puigdemont, whose regional government was dismissed by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Friday, accused Madrid of “premeditated aggression” against the will of the Catalans.
Rajoy removed Puigdemont, took over the administration of the autonomous region and set a new election after Catalonia’s parliament declared itself an independent nation on Friday.
The bold if futile action brought Spain’s worst political crisis in the four decades since the return of democracy to a new and possibly dangerous level.
“It’s very clear that the best form of defending the gains made up until now is democratic opposition to Article 155,” Puigdemont said in a brief statement, referring to the constitutional trigger for the takeover.
But he was vague on precisely what steps the secessionists would take as the national authorities are already moving into Barcelona and other parts of Catalonia to enforce the takeover.
European countries, the United States and Mexico have also rejected the Catalan declaration and expressed support for Spain’s unity.
POSSIBLE CONFLICT: In another development, Catalonia’s police force told its officers to remain neutral, a step towards averting possible conflict following doubts over how the Mossos d’Esquadra, as the they are called, would respond if ordered to evict Puigdemont and his government.
The force is riven by distrust between those for and against independence and is estranged from Spain’s national police forces, Mossos and national officers have said. Some Catalan officers stood between national police and those trying to vote during the referendum.
“Given that there is, it is likely to be an increase in gatherings and rallies of citizens in all the territory and that there are people of different thoughts, we must remember that it is our responsibility to guarantee the security of all and help these to take place without incident,” said the memo, which had no name attached to it.
Government buildings, the headquarters of national political parties, ports, airports, courts, and the Bank of Spain were being guarded, the Interior Ministry said. Units of the regional force could be replaced if events made that necessary, it said.
In Barcelona, thousands of independence supporters packed the Sant Jaume Square in front of the regional headquarters on Friday night, waving Catalan flags and singing traditional songs in the Catalan language as bands played.