Raising Specter of Fresh Violence, Spain to Impose Direct Rule on Catalonia

Move comes as Catalan President Puigdemont says his region could unilaterally declare independence

A woman holds an estelada or independence flag on a motorcycle after taking part on a protest against the National Court's decision to imprison civil society leaders without bail, in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. Protesters were gathering for a fresh round of demonstrations in Barcelona Tuesday to demand the release of two leaders of Catalonia's pro-independence movement who were jailed in a sedition probe.
Emilio Morenatti/AP

Spain's government will trigger Article 155 of the country's constitution on Saturday, a provision that permits the suspension of Catalonia's political autonomy, the Prime Minister's Office said on Thursday. 

A special cabinet meeting was called on the matter after Catalonia's leader, Carles Puigdemont, said his region's parliament could vote on a formal declaration of independence from Spain if the central government failed to agree to talks. 

“If the government continues to impede dialogue and continues with the repression, the Catalan parliament could proceed, if it is considered opportune, to vote on a formal declaration of independence,” Puigdemont said in a letter to Spanish Prime Minister Marian Rajoy.

Puigdemont made the letter public only minutes before a 10 A.M. deadline he had been given by Rajoy to retract an ambiguous declaration of independence the Catalonian leader made last week. In a referendum on October 1, a majority of Catalonian voters cast ballots in favor of independence from Spain.