Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said that Madrid would not rule out suspending Catalonia’s autonomous status if its leaders declare independence.
“I don’t rule out absolutely anything that is within the law … Ideally, it shouldn’t be necessary to implement extreme solutions but for that not to happen things would have to be changed,” Said Rajoy during a newspaper interview on Saturday.
The remarks were made as Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and officials in the regional parliament have vowed to push ahead with a plan to declare independence from Spain despite Madrid’s opposition to the vote, which manifested itself in unprecedented police violence on the day of the controversial vote last week.
“I hope that the Catalonia that makes pacts, is moderate and for many years contributed to Spain’s economic growth and improvement in welfare and wealth returns. It can’t be in the hands of extremists, the radicals and the (far-left secessionist party) CUP,” added Rajoy.
“I would like the threat of an independence declaration to be withdrawn as quickly as possible,” he added.
Meanwhile, people in at least 50 cities across Spain held demonstrations in support of the country’s unity.
Last Sunday, the Spanish government went out of its way to avert the referendum, raiding venues and confiscating ballot boxes and papers, arresting officials, and even installing police forces at sites where polling stations managed to get set up to physically remove voters. Security forces used batons and rubber bullets to disperse crowds of voters, wounding nearly 900 people.
Despite the crackdown, some 2.26 million of Catalonia’s 5.3 million registered voters managed to cast their ballots, according to figures released by the regional government, which said the turnout had been some 43 percent. Ninety percent of the participants voted in favor of secession from Spain, the regional government said.