By Nimra Noor, International News Writer
Hours after the Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, declared Catalonia’s independence on Friday, October 27, the Spanish government began to assert control over the region, sacking the disputed area’s government. With Puigdemont, his ministers, and diplomats removed from the office, all of the region’s authority is now transferred to the central government in Madrid, according to BBC.
Puigdemont had led a secession in early October before making the declaration of independence towards the end of the month. Failing to meet the central government’s deadline to announce the decision, Article 155 was invoked by the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, to take direct control of Catalonia. Re-elections in the Catalan region are to be held on December 21, 2017.
It is the first time that Spain has turned to dispossess one of its 17 regions of autonomy. “We never wanted to reach this situation, never,” Prime Minister Rajoy said on television. His move provided a fitting climax for a frenzied day in Madrid as the previously cheering crowd of independence supporters in Barcelona were then left dull and disillusioned over their leader’s removal.
Yet, Puigdemont was cheered by his supporters as he walked down the streets of his home town of Girona after being sacked. However, his brief call for citizens to stage “a democratic opposition” in response to the Madrid’s takeover disappointed most of the pro-independence Catalans, and left them struggling to understand what he meant.
Further questions were raised among some activists shortly after the possible charges were announced on Monday, October 30, as Carles Puigdemont was sacked and five of his former ministers fled to Brussels, Belgium.
Clarifying his move to flee from Catalonia, Puigdemont told in a press conference that he was not “personally afraid of the arrest,” but that he plans to push Catalonia’s case inside the European Union and across the world to strengthen the independence movement. He further told that he was not applying for political asylum in Belgium, at least not now, according to BBC.
With the most recent actions by a Spanish judge to send arrest warrants for five former Catalan officials, the crisis has worsened. These sacked officials are being sought for different crimes, including rebellion, sedition and embezzlement in a Spanish investigation into their roles in pushing Catalonia’s independence bid.
Spain and the European Union have set their eyes on Belgium now. If Belgium acts on the international warrant issued by Spain and arrests him, Puigdemont would have to be brought before an investigating judge within 24 hours. If Belgium does not, it would risk a rift with its close ally, Madrid, leading to a greater political issue on an international standing.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 7th print edition.
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