Spanish PM ready to use all legal means to stop Catalan independence

PP spokesman makes historical comparisons with 1934 declaration of Catalan statehood

The PP's vice-secretary for communications, Pablo Casado.
The PP's vice-secretary for communications, Pablo Casado.EFE

Spain’s central government on Monday issued a message of firmness just hours before Catalan lawmakers convene for a session that could theoretically end in a unilateral declaration of independence.

The Mariano Rajoy administration is promising “a firm hand against secessionism,” according to the Popular Party (PP)’s vice-secretary for communications, Pablo Casado.

Rajoy and his team are hardening their tone ahead of a session in which Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont could declare independence, even if it ends up being a “symbolic” breakaway, as some sources in his Democratic Party of Catalonia (PDdeCat) are now suggesting.

Puigdemont and other politicians pushing for independence could potentially be prosecuted for the crimes of sedition and rebellion

“History shows that Catalan declarations of independence have ended very badly,” noted Casado, alluding to a declaration of Catalan statehood on October 6, 1934. At that time, the Spanish government arrested all members of the Catalan government and suspended home rule. Between 1936 and 1939, Spain went through a civil war, followed by four decades of dictatorship.

Fast-forwarding to today, the government has made it clear that it is keeping all options open to prevent secession in Catalonia, including a suspension of home rule using a constitutional provision that has never been invoked since the Constitution was signed in 1978.

“We are going to prevent independence in Catalonia,” said Casado, quoting Rajoy. “We will take all necessary measures to prevent it. A separation of Catalonia is not going to happen. The government will do whatever it takes to ensure it.”

Besides invoking Section 155 of the Constitution to suspend home rule, the government could apply the National Security Law, and try to get Congress to support the declaration of a state of emergency or siege.

Meanwhile, Puigdemont and other politicians pushing for independence could potentially be prosecuted for the crimes of sedition and rebellion.

“Rajoy has told us he will do everything necessary, without giving up on any tool afforded by the Constitution and the Criminal Code,” said Casado. “There is no room for appeasement or for international mediation. We have no concessions to make and nothing to negotiate with coup-mongers.”

The government could try to get Congress to support the declaration of a state of emergency or siege

Then Casado added: “Whoever declares [independence] could end up just like the one who declared it 83 years ago.”

Casado was comparing Catalan premier Puigdemont with Lluís Companys, who was jailed after declaring an independent Catalan state in 1934. Casado later told reporters that he was alluding merely to this episode – not to the fact that Companys was later executed by the Franco regime in 1940. He said that secessionists are the ones making calls to exercise physical violence against opponents of independence.

National Police

Meanwhile, in an unprecedented scene, the National and Catalan police forces are now sharing surveillance duties outside the Catalonia High Court (TSJC). Until now, this task had been the sole jurisdiction of the Mossos d’Esquadra, but TSJC chief Jesús Barrientos has asked the National Police to head security efforts inside and outside the building.

The move comes after the Mossos failed to follow TSJC instructions to prevent the October 1 referendum, prompting critics to say that this agency is at the service of the pro-independence government in Catalonia. Barrientos said that this dual solution “can more efficiently preserve constitutional legality.”

The decision also follows a reading of the breakaway laws rammed through the regional parliament last month, and which contemplate “the suppression” of the TSJC and of its chief justice.

Meanwhile, the head of the Supreme Court and chair of the General Council of the Judiciary, Carlos Lesmes, has condemned “the acts of harassment against members of the National Police and Civil Guard that have taken place and continue to take place in Catalonia.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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