Is the Spanish government really tough on Catalonia?
Catalonia: Rajoy stays tough
In the dispute over the independence movement in Catalonia, Mariano Rajoy has shown himself uncompromising. While tens of thousands of Spaniards demonstrated for negotiations, the Spanish Prime Minister declined mediation and talks. The newspaper El País Rajoy said, according to the constitution, the Spanish government could suspend the autonomy of Catalonia and prevent a secession. It was Rajyo's first interview since the controversial referendum on October 1, in which, according to official figures, a good 90 percent of voters voted for Catalonia's independence. However, only 43 percent of those eligible to vote had participated.
Rajoy said in the interview with the Spanish newspaper that he absolutely wanted to ensure that a possible declaration of independence by Catalonia would come to nothing. "The government will ensure that any declaration of independence will lead to nothing," said the Prime Minister El País. He is considering withdrawing partial autonomy from Catalonia if the political leadership in the region does not withdraw its threat to declare independence.
When asked directly whether the central government could apply Article 155 of the Constitution, Rajoy replied, "I'm not ruling anything out." According to Article 155, the central government of a region can withdraw its autonomy if it does not comply with the constitution, does not fulfill its obligations or if it seriously offends against the interests of the whole country. This could put the region of Catalonia under forced administration by Spain and lose any room for maneuver. "But I have to do things at the right time," added Rajoy.
Tens of thousands of people demonstrated for a peaceful solution to the conflict across Spain on Saturday. Under the motto "Hablamos?" ("Are we talking?") The demonstrators gathered in front of the town halls in Madrid, Barcelona and 50 other cities. Most of the participants were dressed all in white and carried white balloons. On tapes they called for negotiations between the Catalan regional government and the central government in Madrid.
The Catalan left-wing politician Nuria Gibert has meanwhile criticized the mass rally planned for today in Barcelona by opponents of independence. Of course, everyone has the right to express their opinion, but it corresponds to a "colonial logic" if many people from other parts of Spain come to demonstrate in Barcelona, said the spokeswoman for the Marxist Catalan party CUP.
"We saw that there was a campaign in Madrid to get the buses to Barcelona full," said Gibert. To designate the opponents of independence as a "silent majority" is a common phrase of the conservative People's Party ruling in Madrid. He accused Gibert of "catalanophobia". Not one central government institution has been ready to listen to the Catalans in the past seven years. Madrid stubbornly insists on the Spanish constitution, which rules out secession. "But the laws have to be there for the people. We are trapped in a prison here," said Gibert. The CUP supports the government of Carles Puigdemont in the Catalan parliament, but is not represented in the government.
The regional parliament had canceled a plenary session planned for Monday because the Spanish constitutional court had banned it. After the ban, the head of the regional government, Carles Puigdemont, announced that he would comment on the "current political situation" in front of the parliament in Barcelona on Tuesday. Such a general announcement could hardly be forbidden by the Constitutional Court. It is not known whether he intends to postulate independence.
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