Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who was fired by the Spanish government over the region’s declaration of independence, has called on the people to non-violently resist Madrid’s takeover bid.
In a televised address on Saturday, Puigdemont said Madrid’s decision to suspend the autonomy of the province and appoint Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria as Catalonia’s provisionary head goes against the will of the people.
“It’s very clear that the best form of defending the gains made up until now is democratic opposition to article 155,” Puigdemont said in a brief statement aired on public regional TV3 broadcaster. He further pledged to “continue working to build a free country”.
Madrid’s move came after the Catalan Parliament voted to declare the region independent from the Spanish government on Friday.
Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy announced the dismissal of Puigdemont and his cabinet, as well as the head of the regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra. He also dissolved the Catalan parliament and announced a snap election will be held in the region on December 21.
Late Saturday, Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo offered the deposed Catalan leader the chance to participate in the vote. “I think he should prepare for next elections,” he told Reuters, saying that if Puigdemont wants to continue with his political career, it is “his right.”
According to Mendez, the Spanish central government will react with “intelligence and with common sense” if Puigdemont refuses to vacate his office. As for possible criminal proceedings against him, de Vigo said that “no one is above the law” and remarked that judicial and political powers were separated in Spain.
The spokesman also expressed confidence that the breakaway region’s police will obey Spanish law after their top commanders were dismissed by the central government.
The Catalan parliament declared independence from Spain on Friday after 90 percent supported cutting ties with Madrid in the regional referendum on October 1. Over 900 people, including women and the elderly, were injured by Spanish police in Barcelona and elsewhere in Catalonia as Madrid attempted to prevent them from voting.