Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia regional government chief (4th from right), joins a mass demonstration on Saturday in Barcelona where some 450,000 people gathered to demand freedom for influential pro-independence activists Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart / Photo: Catalan Government‏

Spain to impose direct rule in Catalonia

Pro-independence government chief of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, says the region won’t accept Madrid’s moves to impose direct rule. “The institutions and the people of Catalonia cannot accept this attack,” he said in an official statement following Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s announcement that he plans to curb the powers of the Catalonia’s parliament, sack its government and call an election within six months.

Puigdemont called on the Catalan parliament to meet to debate the measures, which he described as the “worst attacks” since the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

He warned that the “response of citizens will be severe and will end up with a big step backwards.”

Rajoy announced the new measures for Catalonia earlier on Saturday (21 October), following a meeting with the central government to discuss thwarting efforts by the autonomous region to break away from Spain.

A vote is now scheduled for next Friday (27 October) in Spain’s upper house, the Senate, where the measures must be approved. That seems a foregone conclusion as Rajoy’s ruling conservatives have a majority in the chamber as well as support on the issue from the main opposition.

Madrid says suspending some of Catalonia’s autonomy – a move that could be applied under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution – would guarantee “freedom, security and plurality” in the face of “rebellious disobedience.”

Tensions in Spain have heightened since Catalonia held a referendum on independence on 1 October, deemed illegal by Madrid.

Austin Ohaegbu with agency reports

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