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Spanish Central Government Moves to Take control of Catalonia After Dismissing President and Parliament

October 30, 2017


Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, October 29, 2017 A right-wing unionist protester, with Swastika, insulting the Catalan police in Barcelona, Sunday, October 29, 2017



Attacks on journalists and Catalan police reported during anti-independence demonstrations

Incidents also include intimidation of transport workers and damage of TV station van and radio station front door

October 30, 2017, by ACN | Barcelona

Several incidents overshadowed the anti-independence demonstrations held in Catalonia after the Declaration of Independence, passed in the Catalan Parliament on Friday. Some journalists were reportedly attacked on Sunday during the 300,000-strong march in Barcelona, as well as some Catalan police officers and transport workers. The events took place only two days after some more violence was reported outside the Catalan radio public broadcaster headquarters during a far-right unionist demonstration.

Catalan radio broadcaster front door damaged

A journalist from the Catalan digital newspaper El Nacional was attacked on Sunday by a demonstrator, as footage shows. Some journalists from the Catalan TV public broadcaster were also intimidated, while a van from the same TV station was damaged. The incidents were reported after on Friday a far-right group of demonstrators for the unity of Spain intimidated employees of the Catalan radio public broadcaster and Barcelona local TV station. Besides, some windows from Catalan radio main front doors were damaged and some Catalan police officers had set a police cordon to protect the building.  

'Long live Franco'

On Sunday some insults and intimidation attempts from a group of far-right protesters taking part in the march to some Catalan police officers were also reported. The incident took place in Plaça Sant Jaume, outside the Catalan government headquarters, and some footage shows that they were insulting the officers and even throwing them some objects. ‘Long live Franco’, ‘Long live Spain’ and ‘Franco would put you right’ were some of the chants heard.

Two people end up in hospital after another attack

A Catalan railway company worker was also reportedly attacked by demonstrators, as well as some taxi drivers in central Barcelona. Some other videos on social media show a protester beating a citizen of Hindu origin. On Friday some other attacks in the Catalan capital took place during anti-independence demonstrations and two passers-by citizens ended up in hospital, according to emergency services (SEM). A shop owner was also attacked. 

Granting Puigdemont asylum ‘not unrealistic’, Belgian minister says

Theo Francken questions that the Catalan president “would get a fair trial” in Spain

29 October 2017 11:53 AM

by ACN | Barcelona

Carles Puigdemont might be able to get political asylum in Belgium if he asks for it. This is what the Belgian migration minister, Theo Francken, told Flemish TV channel VTM on Saturday. “It is not unrealistic if you look at the situation” that the Catalan president could be granted asylum, he said. According to Francken, if that were the case, it would be difficult for Spain to extradite him. He does not rule out this scenario because the Spanish attorney general is “already talking about a prison sentence”.

Indeed, José Manuel Maza said few days ago that should independence be declared, he would file a lawsuit against Carles Puigdemont for rebellion, which carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. “The question is to what extent he would get a fair trial,” Francken added.

The migration minister made these remarks after the Belgian prime minister, Charles Michel, avoided backing Spain after the Catalan independence declaration. He urged a “peaceful solution” and on Twitter said that a political crisis “can only be resolved with dialogue.” According to Michel, the solution should respect "national and international order". He had criticized the violence of Spanish police during the independence referendum on October 1, when he tweeted: “We condemn all forms of violence and restate our call for dialogue."

Catalan police chief resigns following Madrid’s orders

Josep Lluís Trapero steps down and asks police officers to stay loyal to his successors

28 October 2017 04:27 PM

by ACN | Barcelona

The Catalan police chief Josep Lluís Trapero resigned on Saturday after the Spanish government ordered his dismissal. Madrid has appointed Ferran López, a high-ranking officer from the Catalan police, to substitute Trapero as the police chief.

Trapero's resignation comes at a moment of peaking political tension between executives in Madrid and Barcelona. On Friday, the Catalan Parliament voted on a declaration of independence and the Spanish government responded by announcing the dismissal of the Catalan government, the dissolution of the Parliament and a snap election to be held on December 21.

In a televised speech, Catalan president Carles Puigdemont appeared to ignore his dismissal and called on people to "democratically resist" Madrid takeover.

Trapero asked police officers to continue obeying orders from his successors. “I ask you — and you’ve always done so — to be sympathetic and stay loyal with [the new heads’] decisions,” he wrote in a letter sent to his agents.

The Spanish Home Affairs Minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, announced today that Madrid was assuming “the responsibilities of the Catalan Home Affairs Ministry in order to protect legality." According to Zoido, Trapero’s dismissal was due to his “judicial situation.”

“I ask you — and you’ve always done so — to be sympathetic and stay loyal with [the new heads’] decisions”

Josep Lluís Trapero · Former Catalan police chief

The Catalan police chief is accused with sedition charges in relation to the October 1 referendum and the demonstrations that took place prior to the vote. The public prosecutor asked the judge to send him to prison, but the latter opted instead for less drastic measures and confiscated his passport.

Trapero stepped down after the Director General of the Catalan police, Pere Soler, also resigned following the Spanish government’s decision to fire him. Soler wrote a letter to his officers as well, deeming the decision as “extraordinarily unfair.”

“We tried to prevent the political process in Catalonia from affecting the normal functioning of the Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan police), but sadly it has not been this case," he went on to say.


Pro-independence parties torn over participation in December election

After large pro-unity demonstration in Barcelona, prosecutors set to move against Puigdemont and his aides

El Pais, 30 October, 2017

A day after hundreds of thousands of people marched for Spanish unity in Barcelona, pro-independence parties are weighing whether and how to run in the Catalan election that’s been announced for December 21 by Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Rajoy called an early election after the Spanish Senate green-lighted emergency measures allowing the central government to temporarily take direct charge of Catalonia from Madrid. This authorization came on the same day that separatist parties in the Catalan parliament voted what amounts to a declaration of independence, inside a half-empty assembly where the opposition had walked out.

The Spanish leader also sacked the entire Catalan government team, including former premier Carles Puigdemont, and put his own deputy Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría in charge of running the region’s internal affairs until a new government emerges out of the December vote. But so far, Puigdemont and his team refuse to acknowledge the move.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are moving against Puigdemont and his top aides. On Monday, they were expected to bring action in the Supreme Court and the Audiencia Nacional, Spain’s High Court,against individuals who facilitated the vote calling for a constituent process to proclaim a Catalan republic.

Secessionist parties – an unwieldy alliance of conservative and far-left groups with very different platforms – are now torn over this election. Participating in it would be tantamount to recognizing the Spanish Constitution, after having publicly rejected it.

The Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT) and Catalan Republican Left (ERC) now wonder whether they can run together again as they did in 2015 as the Junts pel Si coalition, which earned 62 seats in the 135-seat chamber, forcing them to seek support from the far-left, anti-capitalist CUP.

The State Prosecutor is set to make a public appearance at 12.30, reports Fernando J. Pérez.

The public ministry is today expected to bring action against former Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont for “rebellion” in the Audiencia Nacional, Spain’s High Court.

Meanwhile, the speaker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell is expected to be the subject of proceedings in the Supreme Court for her role in facilitating the vote calling for the calling of an independent Catalan republic.

“Inevitable and undesirable.” That is how Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena has described the situation in Catalonia, criticizing the “failed politics” of Madrid and Catalonia.

Asked in council where she stood on the issue, the left-wing mayor said she backed Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy over the application of Article 155. She said the move was “inevitable” after the Catalan parliament committed the “totally illegal” move of declaring independence. Photo credit: Kike Para.

Bankia managing director José Sevilla has admitted that there were “various moments” in October when clients expressed a “certain level of concern” over the situation in Catalonia. He said some clients had asked for accounts to be opened outside of the region, but did not specify how many, Europa Press reports.

He said things had calmed down in the last two weeks and rejected claims the bank had engaged in unfair competition by taking advantage of the difficulties faced by banks in the region with a higher profile.

The banks La Caixa and Banco Sabadell both changed their registered addresses in October over concerns about ongoing uncertainty in the region.

The executive committee of the pro-independence Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT) – the party of sacked regional premier Carles Puigdemont – is meeting today. Former premier Artur Mas, instrumental in the non-binding Independence referendum of 2014 in the region, and former business minister Santi Vila have already arrived at party HQ.   

Vila resigned from office last week after Puigdemont announced he would not be calling regional elections, a decision that paved the way for the regional parliament to unilaterally declare independence on Friday.

The executive committee of the pro-independence Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT) – the party of sacked regional premier Carles Puigdemont – is meeting today. Former premier Artur Mas, instrumental in the non-binding Independence referendum of 2014 in the region, and former business minister Santi Vila have already arrived at party HQ.   

Vila resigned from office last week after Puigdemont announced he would not be calling regional elections, a decision that paved the way for the regional parliament to unilaterally declare independence on Friday.


Spain moves to take control of Catalonia

NBC News, October 30, 2017

Spain is set to put in place measures to take direct control of Catalonia in response to the region's declaration of independence last week.

On Friday, Madrid stripped Catalonia of its autonomy and removed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont from office.

The temporary move will see as many as 150 of the region's ministers replaced. Some have vowed to continue to work.

Mr Puigdemont and other Catalan officials may face criminal charges, a move likely to lead to huge protests.

What happens next?

Spain's central government is to take control of Catalan institutions with Spanish officials expected to be put in place in the region's ministries on Monday.

Mr Puigdemont, along with his vice-president Oriol Junqueras, have said they do not accept the move by Madrid, adding that they could only be removed from power by the citizens of Catalonia.

If Mr Puigdemont and others refuse to step aside, they face possible arrest.

Catalonia's regional police force, known as Mossos, whose chief was dismissed last week, is deployed in Sant Jaume square, near the government palace in the centre of Barcelona.

Spain's Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis has said he expects the officers to "act professionally".

Spain's chief prosecutor has also been preparing criminal charges against any officials considered to have acted against Spanish law in declaring independence following a referendum deemed illegal under the Spanish constitution.

© Reuters Catalan regional police (Mossos) guard the Catalan regional government headquarters

Meanwhile, Madrid has called for fresh elections on 21 December.

Mr Puigdemont could run in new elections, according to Mr Dastis, but only if the sacked Catalan leader has not been jailed.

What about Catalonia's autonomy?

On Sunday, Mr Dastis told Sky News: "We are not taking autonomy away from Catalonia. We are just re-establishing it, in fact."

He added: "Reality is already sinking in, will continue sinking in and they will realise that they cannot do something without the authority of law and they will be usurping authority."

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido has written to all police officers in Catalonia asking for their loyalty as a "new era" begins in the region.

He reminded members of the regional police, who are now under direct control from Madrid, of their duty to obey orders and to guarantee "the rights and liberties of all".

Senior police officers have told the BBC that they have already complied with an order to remove framed photographs of Mr Puigdemont from police stations across the region.

What is the local press saying?

The centre-left and unionist Madrid-based El País says that Sunday's huge pro-union protest in Barcelona "has shown in this difficult moment that Catalan society is much more plural than what the pro-independence block strives to show" The pro-union Barcelona-based El Periódico says the protest was the "start of the election campaign". It adds that "the new regional elections should serve to move Catalonia out of its current impasse"

The pro-independence Catalan language Ara suggests in an editorial that it would be an "error" for the pro-independence parties not to contest the 21 December elections The moderate Barcelona-based La Vanguardia focuses on the importance of "reconstruction" and how to overcome the divisions in Catalan society. "All sides will inevitably discover that there is no political problem that cannot be resolved by dialogue" it says

Rule from Madrid

Spain has been gripped by a constitutional crisis since a referendum, organised by Mr Puigdemont's separatist government, was held earlier this month in defiance of a ruling by the Constitutional Court which had declared it illegal.

The Catalan government said that of the 43% of potential voters who took part, 90% were in favour of independence.

Friday saw the regional parliament declare independence.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy then announced the dissolution of the regional parliament and the removal of Mr Puigdemont as Catalan leader.

Mr Puigdemont has urged "democratic opposition" to direct rule from Madrid.

Belgium's Migration Minister Theo Francken has said the separatist leader could be given asylum protection which Spain would find difficult to reverse.

"If you see the situation at the moment, the prison sentences and the repression from Madrid and the prison sentences that are bandied about... the question is obviously whether somebody like that has the chance of a fair trial," he told Reuters.

There is no suggestion that Mr Puigdemont is seeking to leave Catalonia. 

Before Madrid took over the Catalan government, the region had one of the greatest levels of self-government in Spain.

It has its own parliament, police force and public broadcaster, as well as a government and president, though those have now been dismissed.

Catalans had a range of powers in many policy areas from culture and environment to communications, transportation, commerce and public safety.  


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