BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spain took direct control of Catalonia on Saturday, firing the region’s defiant separatist government a day after Catalan lawmakers passed a declaration of independence for the prosperous northeastern region.
The move came after one of the most tumultuous days in the country’s recent history, as the national parliament in Madrid approved unprecedented constitutional measures to halt the secessionist drive by the regional parliament in Barcelona.
Spain made the takeover official by publishing special measures online early Saturday in the country’s gazette.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who now replaces Catalan President Carles Puigdemont as the top decision-maker in the northeastern region, has also dissolved the regional parliament and called a new regional election for Dec. 21.
Rajoy said the declaration of independence “not only goes against the law but is a criminal act.”
His comments were met late Friday with jeers and whistles of disapproval in Barcelona, the main city in Catalonia, where thousands had gathered to toast the independence declaration.
Puigdemont and the 12 members of the Catalan Cabinet now will no longer be paid and could be charged with usurping others’ functions if they refuse to obey.
There was no immediate sign that top Catalan officials will do so, or comply with the orders.
It’s also unclear how Rajoy will be able to exert its control at lower levels of the vast regional administration.
Some among the roughly 200,000 civil servants have said they will refuse to obey orders from Madrid, risking being punished or even fired under the special powers granted to central authorities by the nation’s Senate on Friday.
Spain’s Interior Ministry also published an order to demote Josep Lluis Trapero from his position as head of the regional Mossos d’Esquadra police. He will be allowed to remain as commissar.
Trapero became a controversial figure as the public face of the police response in mid-August to deadly extremists’ attacks in and near Barcelona. He was praised for effectiveness but also criticized for coordination problems with other national police forces.