Spanish government meets to impose direct rule in rebel Catalonia

Spanish government meets to impose direct rule in rebel Catalonia

Spanish government meets to impose direct rule in rebel Catalonia

It does not suspend the autonomy of Catalonia, which is guaranteed in Spain's constitution and the Statute of Autonomy, but it allows the government to take special measures to force the region to adhere to its constitutional obligations.

The decision to press for the abolition of the Catalan leadership, impose direct rule and push for elections within six months followed a special cabinet meeting on Saturday morning, nearly three weeks after the controversial independence referendum took place.

Some 450,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona on Saturday, local police said, after Spain moved to dismiss Catalonia's regional government to thwart its leaders' independence bid.

Earlier in the day, the Spanish authorities made a decision to invoke Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which envisages suspension of some Catalonia's autonomy under specific conditions.

Regional authorities said about 90 percent of those who cast ballots voted for independence.

Barcelona resident Rosa Isart said the Spanish government's determination to prevent Catalonia from leaving reminded her of Franco's dictatorship decades ago.

Madrid could also seek to force new elections - its preferred solution to Spain's most protracted political crisis since it returned to democracy in 1977 - as early as January.

Supporters say the region does too much to prop up the rest of the national economy and would thrive if it went its own way, but opponents say Catalonia is stronger as part of Spain and that a split would spell economic and political disaster. The article is only two paragraphs long and does not outline rules for implementation.

"We are not ending Catalan autonomy, but we are relieving of their duties those who have acted outside the law", Mr Rajoy said.

FC Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu says the famed soccer club is backing the leaders of Catalonia in response to the Spanish government's decision to take over the regional government. Their duties will be carried out by the corresponding ministries in the Madrid government during what the government has declared a crisis.

The date of the Senate vote has not yet been determined, but the meeting will be held on October 27, said in the upper house.

Catalonia's vice president was one of the first regional cabinet members to react to the announcement that Spanish authorities are seeking to dissolve the cabinet and take control of the prosperous territory.

Home to 7.5 million people, the wealthy northeastern region fiercely defends its language and culture and enjoys control over its policing, education and healthcare.

Albert Rivera, head of the pro-business Citizens party, said he backed Rajoy's measures because Catalonia needs to restore legal security so companies can remain in the region.

Madrid this week cut its national growth forecast for next year from 2.6 percent to 2.3 percent, saying the standoff was creating uncertainty.

Although Mr Rajoy underlined he had the support of both the Socialist Party and Ciudadanos, Spain's fourth largest political grouping, the measures were described as "authoritarian and a botched job." by the left-wing Podemos coalition.

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