BARCELONA, Spain â The Latest on the Spain-Catalonia political crisis (all times local):
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has voiced his support for a rally in Barcelona to protest the Catalan parliamentâs declaration of independence.
Rajoy sent the message on Twitter: âConcord, peaceful coexistence and common sense, democracy and dialogue within the law.â
Hundreds of thousands rallied in downtown Barcelona on Sunday, two days after the separatist majority of Cataloniaâs parliament defied Rajoy and the Spanish courts by voting in favor of seceding from Spain.
Rajoy responded by firing Cataloniaâs government, dissolving its parliament and ordering a new regional election.
Rajoy also wrote that âCatalans will speak with liberty and guaranteesâ when called to vote on Dec. 21.
Spainâs interior minister has reminded Cataloniaâs regional police of their obligation to obey the Spanish Constitution and local laws amid an institutional showdown over secession.
Juan Ignacio Zoido wrote in an open letter to all police stationed in Catalonia, which include the National Police, the Civil Guard and Cataloniaâs regional police force. He wrote they must âobey orders, guarantee the rights of all, and fulfill the mandates of the Constitutionâ and Cataloniaâs charter law.
Cataloniaâs police, the Mossos dâEsquadra, have been under intense scrutiny for their alleged passivity in stopping a banned referendum on secession on Oct. 1.
Spanish Prime Minister Mario Rajoy has fired the top three officials in charge of the Mossos as part of a crackdown after Cataloniaâs parliament voted Friday for a declaration of independence.
A former president of the European Parliament has defended the intervention of Spain in the running of Cataloniaâs regional government after its legislature voted to secede.
Josep Borrell, also a former Spanish minister, told a pro-union rally in Barcelona on Sunday that the governmentâs use of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution to take control of Catalonia is the only thing that is averting an economic crisis in the northeastern region.
Borrell says that if Article 155 hadnât been evoked âmany of you would have lost your jobs . and if that hasnât happened itâs because thanks to the application of Article 155 businesses and markets understand that there wonât be (secession).â
Borrell said that if Spain had not suspended self-rule by Cataloniaâs secessionists even more business would have left Catalonia in recent weeks than the 1,700 companies which have relocated headquarters to other parts of Spain in recent weeks.
Spainâs foreign minister says Cataloniaâs deposed leader would be eligible to run in the regional election called by the central government on Dec. 21, provided he hasnât been imprisoned by then.
Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis told The Associated Press in an interview in Madrid that Carles Puigdemontâs pro-independence party could âtheoreticallyâ put him up as a candidate âif he is not put in jail at that time.â
Puigdemont could face criminal charges for his role in the separatist movement that culminated in the Catalan parliament declaring an independent republic on Friday.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators, many of them carrying Spanish and official âsenyeraâ Catalan flags, have gathered on a central Barcelona boulevard in a call for Spainâs unity.
The atmosphere was festive, as many cheered politicians and central government officials who joined the march. Some chanted âPuigdemont, to jail!â referring to the ousted regional leader who has been fired along with his Cabinet by the Spanish government after an independence declaration Friday.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has also dissolved Cataloniaâs parliament and called a regional election for Dec. 21. Demonstrators are chanting âNow yes, we are going to vote!â and applauding every time a national police helicopter flies over the crowd. âThis is our police!â they chanted.
The regional leader of one of Spainâs main parties that wants to keep the country united has called on a massive turnout at a rally to protest the declaration of independence by Cataloniaâs parliament.
Ines Arrimadas of the Citizens party says âtoday the silent majority of Catalans are once again taking to the street to show that the majority of Catalans feel Catalan, Spanish and European.â
Arrimadas urged those Catalans in favor of remaining in Spain to vote for pro-union parties in a regional election on Dec. 21.
The Spanish government used extraordinary powers given to it by the Senate to fire the regional government of Catalonia and dissolve its parliament after it voted in favor of secession on Friday.
Arrimadas says âwe will go out to win (the elections) and give Catalans the chance to recover our future.â
Organizers say that a march calling for the unity of Spain in downtown Barcelona should claim the streets for all Catalans and not only for those in support of the regionâs independence.
Alex Ramos, president for the pro-union Societat Civil Catalana grassroots platform, says: âWe have organized ourselves late, but we are here to show that there is a majority of Catalans that are no longer silent and that no longer want to be silenced.â
Pro-union forces have made a call for defeating separatists in an early regional election on Dec. 21. The vote has been called by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy after dismissing the Catalan government and dissolving the regional parliament where independence was proclaimed.
Commenting on the regional separatist leader Carles Puigdemontâs refusal to step down, the leader of the pro-business center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) party Albert Rivera said separatists were âliving in a parallel reality.â
The ousted vice president of Cataloniaâs rebellious government has left open the possibility that secessionist parties will participate in a regional election called by Spainâs central government.
Oriol Junqueras wrote in an open letter published Sunday in Catalan newspaper El Punt-Avui that separatist forces must âcontinue forward . without ever renouncing the ballot boxes.â
Junqueras, regional president Carles Puigdemont and the rest of their top government officials were fired by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Saturday a day after Cataloniaâs Parliament voted in favor of a declaration of independence for the northeastern region.
Rajoy also announced that he was dissolving the Catalan Parliament and called regional elections for December 21 in hopes that pro-union parties can take back the majority in the regionâs legislative chamber.
Hundreds of people opposing Catalan independence have begun gathering in central Barcelona before what is expected to be a major demonstration in favor of Spainâs unity.
The protesters, waving Spanish flags, were to march later in the day through part of the city center. The demonstration comes two days after Cataloniaâs separatist lawmakers voted to secede from Spain. The move was met by the central government in Madrid triggering unprecedented constitutional powers to take control of the regionâs affairs.
Organizers of Sundayâs march say its goal is to defend Spainâs unity and reject âan unprecedented attack in the history of democracy.â Their slogan will be âWe are all Catalonia. Common sense for coexistence!â Members of the central government and main pro-union parties are expected to join.
A Belgian government official says it would be ânot unrealisticâ for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to ask for asylum and warns it would create serious diplomatic difficulties with fellow European Union member state Spain.
Asylum State Secretary Theo Francken tweeted early Sunday that âit is possible to ask for asylum as an EU subjectâ in Belgium. Francken stressed that Belgium wasnât seeking such a scenario, saying âIâm not rolling out the welcome mat.â
Francken added that if such a request would come in, âweâd enter a difficult diplomatic situation with the Spanish authorities. That is evident.â
There has been no indication that Puigdemont has requested asylum after Spain took control of Cataloniaâs government and dismissed its leaders, including Puigdemont, after regional lawmakers voted to declare independence from Spain.
Cataloniaâs main city Barcelona is bracing for a new day of protests over an independence declaration that led to the regional governmentâs dismissal by Spain.
Societat Civil Catalan has called for those who oppose Catalan independence to march at noon Sunday (1100 GMT; 7 a.m. EDT).
Organizers say the marchâs goal is to defend Spainâs unity and reject âan unprecedented attack in the history of democracy.â Their slogan will be âWe are all Catalonia. Common sense for coexistence!â Members of the central government and main pro-union parties are expected to join.
No pro-independence marches were expected Sunday. Cataloniaâs ousted leader has called for Catalans to engage in peaceful opposition.
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