Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Saturday announced Madrid will remove Catalan President Carles Puigdemont from his position, suspend Catalonia's regional autonomy, and impose direct national rule to suppress the Catalan independence movement.
This is an unprecedented step under the current Spanish Constitution. Rajoy is invoking the document's Article 155, which says if a region "acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain," the national government can, with majority Senate approval, "take all measures necessary" to stop it.
Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras labeled the move "totalitarianism," and Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau called it "an attack on everyone's rights and freedoms." Puigdemont led a large protest in Barcelona Saturday afternoon.
In a referendum earlier this month, 90 percent of Catalans who turned out to vote endorsed independence from Spain. The vote was held despite intense opposition from Madrid, including widespread reports of police brutality against would-be voters. Catalan leaders have sought international assistance to negotiate a peaceful resolution, but so far their calls have gone unanswered.