November 18, 2017
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European Union

Ousted Catalan leader vows to defy Spain's direct-rule, pursue independence

Barcelona, Spain, Oct 28 (efe-epa).- The regional president of Catalonia, who the Spanish central executive removed from office by invoking a constitutional article that rescinded the prosperous northeastern region's autonomy, on Saturday vowed to continue working towards Catalan independence and called on his supporters to begin a peaceful democratic opposition to Spain.

Carles Puigdemont, whose post was delegated to Spain's deputy prime minister according to an official state bulletin released Saturday morning, gave a brief televised press conference from the Catalan city of Girona in which he vowed to defy Spain's takeover of Catalan autonomy and push for independence.

"In a democratic society, the parliaments elect the governments," the separatist figurehead said. "We will continue to work towards creating an independent nation."

He said the best way to preserve the achievements of the Catalan government was to form a peaceful, democratic opposition to Article 155 of the Constitution, the mechanism triggered by the Spanish government to impose direct rule over Catalonia, a move denounced as "aggressive" by Puigdemont.

The now barred Catalan president fell short of calling parallel regional elections to those slated by the central government, as had been speculated.

On its official Twitter page, Spain's governing Popular Party scalded Puigdemont's address.

"This is really terrible. Puigdemont's irresponsibility knows no bounds," it said.

The leader of the Junts Pel Sí (Together For Yes, JxS) coalition put his region's independence bid to a vote in Catalan parliament on Friday, which passed the measure in a session marked by walk-outs from the pro-unity regional branches of Spain's mainstream parties.

JxS, with the help of left-wing bedfellow CUP, propelled the bill through the parliament and declared Catalonia independent from Spain in the form of a republic.

The response from Madrid was swift.

With the Senate's backing, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's Popular Party executive triggered Article 155, sacking Puigdemont and his vice-president Oriol Junqueras along with their entire cabinet, dissolving the local parliament, dismissing the regional police chief and calling fresh local elections.

Spain's State Bulletin which publishes government decisions that have become law said early Saturday that "Elections for the Parliament of Catalonia will take place on 21 December 2017."

The terms fixed by Rajoy's government were that campaigning would start on Dec. 5 and last 15 days.

All of Catalonia's overseas diplomatic missions were also closed down apart from its office in Brussels, which serves to maintain relations with the European Union.

Despite the unprecedented measures taken by Rajoy's conservatives, there were celebrations among separatist officials and supporters in Catalonia.

"We've done it!" said the now fired local health spokesman Toni Comín on his Twitter account. "Now, it's up to us to be worthy of the freedom we've won," he added.

The now-removed regional interior spokesman Josep Rull had also expressed similar sentiments.

In the meantime, Spain's State Prosecutor was working on a case that could see Puigdemont and his closest cohorts charged with criminal offenses for rebelling against the Constitution and the rule of law.

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