Spanish gov't spokesman warns force could be used in Catalonia
Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo warned Tuesday that force would be used if necessary against protests which threaten public order in the Catalan region.
Mendez de Vigo made the declarations in the Times newspaper in the UK, three days before the Spanish Senate is expected to ratify the use of Article 155 to suspend the autonomy of the Catalan regional government, sack Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and his government, and give control of key institutions, including the Catalan regional police force (Mossos d'Esquadra) to Madrid.
This is likely to cause mass protests in the region, but Mendez de Vigo said the Spanish government would not allow them to get out of hand.
He said that "no government wants any acts of violence, but the government has to make sure that the law is obeyed, and if there are people on the other side who do not want to obey the law, then, through the Mossos d'Esquadra (Catalan regional police force), we will have to restore the law."
The Mossos were criticized for their inactivity during the Catalan independence referendum on Oct. 1, which had been declared illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court, despite closing three times more polling stations than National Police and Civil Guards. The Mossos' leader, Josep Lluis Trapero, is currently under investigation by the Spanish High Court on charges of sedition for this supposed inactivity and during another incident on Sept. 20.
The application of Article 155 will see Trapero removed from his post and replaced with an official appointed by Madrid, and the Mossos' union has declared they would be obliged to follow their orders.
Meanwhile, there is no confirmation on whether or not Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, will speak in person at the Senate on either Wednesday or Thursday, as was hinted at on Monday.
On Monday night he showed no signs of backing down in a speech to business leaders in which he said, "while we maintain loyal to who we are, we shall win no matter who is against us."
The Catalan regional Parliament will meet on Thursday to discuss recent events and it is possible Puigdemont could use the session to attempt to pass a unilateral declaration of independence or call new regional elections, which he would not be able to do after article 155 is applied by Madrid.
Spanish justice minister Rafael Catala said in an interview with Spanish state radio station, RTVE, that "merely by calling elections," Puigdemont would "not avoid" Article 155 and that the Catalan leader had to confirm that he had not already declared Catalan independence and "return to legality."