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The Spanish Government has moved to hold a cabinet meeting on Saturday, October 21 to process the enforcement of direct control over Catalonia after the region’s president refused to abandon the push for independence.
The announcement from Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy came only minutes after the Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, threatened to declare the region’s independence from the State in a letter sent on Thursday morning.
“If the central government persists in impeding dialogue and continuing its repression, Catalonia’s parliament will proceed . . . with a vote to formally declare independence,” the letter read.
The government was quick to respond. A government spokesperson said that the aforementioned letter does not meet the demands set by Madrid and as such, triggers Article 155 of Spain’s 1978 Constitution which allows them to take control over the region.
“The Spanish government will continue with the procedures outlined in Article 155 of the Constitution to restore legality in Catalonia’s self-government,” the statement from the Prime Minister said.
The cabinet meeting will also “approve the measures that will be sent to the Senate to protect the general interest of all Spaniards.” Ever since the restoration of democracy four decades ago, following the death of General Franco, Article 155 has never been invoked in the country.
Just last week, the Catalan leader has declared independence in the regional parliament, which he then immediately suspended in a move to challenge the Spanish government to hold negotiations.
It is in this light that the Spanish authorities had called on the Catalan leader to clarify whether the referendum at the beginning of October declared the region’s independence from the State.
Spanish authorities have now moved to take actions after Mr. Puigdemont went ahead with a banned referendum that they insist has violated the constitution.
Only 43% or 2.3 million out of the 5.5 million registered voters in Catalonia took part in the October 1 referendum. 770,000 of the votes were said to be lost in the aftermath of the police force stepping in to try and enforce a court order halting the vote.
Catalan officials, as well as the Spanish authorities, ha
ve said that hundreds of protesters and police force were injured.
The exact terms of Article 155 are vague and as a result, may cause more dispute in the already tense region of Catalonia.
Madrid’s other options include clearing the whole regional administration and appointing new ones, taking control of both police and financial departments, or calling a snap election