Breaking: Catalonia declares independence as Spain readies takeover

A largely symbolic move in Catalonia will generate an anything-but-symbolic response from Madrid. The parliament in the restive province voted to declare its independence from Spain in a 70-10 vote, to the delight of cheering crowds in the street:

Catalonia’s parliament declared independence from Spain on Friday in defiance of the Madrid government, which at the same time was preparing to impose direct rule over the region.

Although the declaration was largely symbolic, since it will not be accepted by Spain or the international community, the move, coupled with the impending vote in Madrid, took the country’s worst political crisis in four decades to a new level.

Thousands of people who had gathered outside parliament in Barcelona cheered and danced after it passed the motion declaring an independent Catalan Republic.

They won’t be cheering long. Not long after the parliamentary vote in Barcelona, Spain’s Senate authorized the Rajoy government to exercise its authority under Article 155 for the first time and take over the autonomous government in Catalonia:

The Spanish Senate gave the central government in Madrid unprecedented powers over Catalonia on Friday, just minutes after the breakaway region declared independence, sharply escalating a constitutional crisis in the center of western Europe. …

Rajoy told the Senate that his government had repeatedly tried to rein in the secessionists in Catalonia. He scoffed at Catalan President Carles Puigdemont’s repeated offers of “dialogue” to end the impasse.

“The word dialogue is a lovely word. It creates good feelings,” Rajoy said. “But dialogue has two enemies: those who abuse, ignore and forget the laws, and those who only want to listen to themselves, who do not want to understand the other party.”

The vote in Barcelona would have been much closer had Catalan deputies opposed to secession not refused to participate in the process. Fifty-five deputies abstained, and the dissidents teed off on Puigdemont for his “magical thinking”:

Carlos Carrizosa of the Ciudadanos party decried the prospect of a declaration of independence, comparing it to a coup. He pointed at Puigdemont and said: “You, president, have been pro-independence your whole life. This whole plan was already laid out.”

“This movement is textbook populism, full of magical thinking, that reality has destroyed. You are willing to sacrifice all, for your pure fanaticism,” said Alejandro Fernández, a Catalan lawmaker whose Popular Party is also running the central government.

The rest of the world remains unimpressed as well. The US has restated its opposition to Catalonian independence, calling the province “an integral part of Spain.” Heather Nauert also declared that the US will support action by Spain to keep the country “strong and united.”  EU president Donald Tusk made it clear that Catalonia would get no support from the continent’s other nations either:

So what comes next? Trouble:

Spain’s public prosecutor had previously threatened that charges of treason would be prepared against Mr Puigdemont and his government if independence were declared.

The Spanish government has said that the “first measure” it will apply under the special powers of Article 155 will be to take direct control of Catalonia’s security forces. …

On Friday, Spanish media quoted the public prosecutor as saying that the speaker of parliament, Teresa Forcadell, and members of her committee could also be accused of crimes against the state for allowing the vote to go ahead.

The Catalan parliament’s legal advisors warned that the proposal to form a republic was illegal.

On Friday afternoon, a Spanish government spokesman said the country’s top prosecutor was pursuing rebellion charges against those responsible for the Catalan parliament vote.

At the moment, independence activists are calling for a “peaceful resistance,” but that’s probably not in the cards for long with the passion on both sides escalating by the hour. Spanish police did the central government no favors with its heavy-handed attempt to shut down the unauthorized referendum on independence last month. This time they’ll have to completely disarm or co-opt the local security forces, which will almost surely touch off a shooting war on the streets of Catalonia — especially if Rajoy orders Catalonian political figures arrested. He can hardly allow them to operate openly now that they have openly rebelled against Madrid.

“Peaceful resistance” is yet more magical thinking among a populace that has been utterly mesmerized by it from Puigdemont and his allies. Catalans need to get prepared for some ugly realities coming their way, and maybe not all of them from Madrid. If radical Islamist terror networks still operate in the region, the confusion gives them a wide opening for new operations.