Rajoy 'ready to use force' in showdown over Catalonia

To stop referendum on independence

03 February, 21:00

    Protest in support of Catalonian politicians investigated by Spanish courts Protest in support of Catalonian politicians investigated by Spanish courts

    MADRID - Tension has been rising between Barcelona and Madrid as part of a referendum on Catalonian independence supported by regional president Carles Puigdemont for September, reported El Periodico on Friday.

    Several pro-independence leaders have recently said that the referendum might be held prior to September - possibly in May or June - as a response to legal proceedings against former regional president Artur Mas and the current Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell for 'disobedience'.

    Puigdemont has said that there is no doubt that the referendum will be held despite ''threats'' from Madrid, while Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has called it unconstitutional and said that it will not take place.

    Quoting sources close to Rajoy, Spanish media outlets have reported that the prime minister is prepared to use strong-arm methods to stop it from being held. Using Article 155 of the constitution, Madrid may take control of the regional police and prevent access to voting stations. Or it could suspend Catalan autonomy and retake control of it through a majority vote in the Madrid Senate, which is controlled by Rajoy's Partido Popular (PP).

    Puigdemont, who holds an absolute majority in the Catalan Parliament, has said that the online basis for an independent Catalonia tax service will be established in July. In order to get around the Constitutional Court vetoes, pro-independence parties plan to draw up in secret the three 'disconnection' laws, which they will take to Parliament only at the last moment to avoid sanctions from the central government.

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