Separatists in Spain vow 'mass disobedience'

Catalonia says the Spanish central government's efforts to implement direct rule will be met with disobedience.

They threaten strikes if Catalan's secessionist leader is deposed

MADRID • Catalan separatists threatened "mass civil disobedience" against the Spanish government if it fulfils its vow to depose the region's secessionist leader to stifle his drive for independence.

Firefighters, teachers and students weighed into the dispute yesterday, warning of strikes and protests, at the start of a crucial week in Spain's deepest political crisis in decades.

Separatists are also mobilising a human shield to block efforts by the Spanish authorities to take control of the breakaway region as both sides prepare to escalate the political conflict, according to two people familiar with the plans.

Groups will concentrate their activists around the regional government's headquarters in Barcelona's Gothic quarter and the nearby Parliament building, the people said, asking not to be identified by name.

They expect Spanish police to use force to try to shut down the administration and will put their bodies on the line, said one person.

Madrid has said it will suspend the powers of the semi-autonomous region, where separatist leaders held a banned independence referendum on Oct 1.

MOVE AGAINST CATALAN LEADER

He will no longer be able to sign anything, he will no longer be able to take decisions, he will no longer receive a salary.

MS SORAYA SAENZ DE SANTAMARIA, Spain's Deputy Prime Minister, saying that Catalan President Carles Puigdemont will be out of a job as soon as this weekend.

Catalonia's separatist parties announced that they would hold a full session on Thursday to decide their response. That could be an opportunity for the region to follow through on threats to declare unilateral independence from Spain, a prospect that has raised fears of unrest.

The Senate is set to suspend the territory's limited self-rule in a meeting expected on Friday. Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said Catalan President Carles Puigdemont will be out of a job as soon as this weekend.

"He will no longer be able to sign anything, he will no longer be able to take decisions, he will no longer receive a salary," Ms Saenz de Santamaria told radio Onda Cero.

The far-left Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), which backs Mr Puigdemont's coalition, said Madrid's post-referendum clampdown was the "biggest assault" against the Catalan people since the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Franco - who ruled from 1939 until 1975 - suppressed Catalonia's autonomy, language and culture. "This assault will receive a response in the form of massive civil disobedience," the CUP, a key regional power broker, said in a statement.

Mr Lluis Corominas, spokesman for the Together for Yes ruling coalition, meanwhile urged for a "peaceful and democratic defence of Catalan institutions". He branded the Spanish response to the independence drive "a case of unprecedented institutional violence".

Catalan firefighters hinted that they may offer resistance in the dispute by refusing to obey orders from the national authorities.

Teachers called a protest march for Thursday, and students said they will go on strike from that day.

Half a million angry separatists took to the streets of Barcelona last Saturday after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced he would replace Mr Puigdemont and his executive. To do so, Madrid will use previously untested constitutional powers to stop Catalonia from breaking away. Under Article 155 of the 1978 Spanish Constitution, Madrid could take control of the Catalan police force and replace the heads of its public broadcaster.

But political analysts warn that Madrid faces a serious struggle in practical terms to impose control over the region, especially if civil servants refuse to obey orders.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2017, with the headline 'Separatists in Spain vow 'mass disobedience''. Print Edition | Subscribe