While Donald Trump’s gaffes and the Harvey Weinstein scandal have dominated the American news media, Europe has found itself entranced by Spain and Catalonia’s hotly contested politics. An autonomous region (much like Scotland or Puerto Rico), the latter is considered a part of Spain, but recent protests and a banned referendum have sullied the already damaged relationship between the two. In fact, the rhetorical (and actual) sparring between Spanish and Catalan leaders and citizens has become so poisonous, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has threatened to suspend the region’s autonomy and impose direct rule from Madrid.
According to CNN, the Spanish prime minister said he “would invoke Article 155 of the constitution, a provision that allows the central government to suspend the autonomy of the Catalan regional administration.” In effect, Rajoy threatened to undo the region’s relative independence, which it has maintained with great difficulty since 1932, to “restore the constitutional order” to the region and to Spain as a whole.
Rajoy’s threat came as a response to a letter written by Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who agreed they were entitled to invoke Article 155, but charged the Spanish government with imposing its will instead of entering discussions. As a result, Puigdemont argued, Catalan reserved the right to vote on independence:
“But despite all our efforts and our desire for dialogue, the fact that the only reply we have been given is that autonomy will be suspended suggests that you do not understand the problem and do not wish to talk.
“If the [Spanish] government persists in hindering dialogue and continues with its repression, the Catalan parliament could, if it deems appropriate, proceed to vote on the formal declaration of independence.”
Needless to say, Spain isn’t too happy with the Catalan president’s threatened vote. Rajoy hasn’t moved to impose direct rule over Catalonia just yet, though he and his cabinet are meeting Saturday to discuss the matter at length.