Catalan government insists Monday is ‘normal working day’ despite being ousted by Madrid

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Catalonia’s deposed government is heading for a fresh showdown with the Spanish authorities today after Catalan ministers promised they would go to work on Monday morning despite being fired over the weekend by Madrid.

A source close to Carles Puigdemont, the deposed president of Catalonia, told The Telegraph that Monday would be “a working day” for the administration, officially ousted under special powers triggered by Spain’s government.

“The president of the country is and will continue to be Carles Puigdemont”, added Catalonia’s deposed vice president, Oriol Junqueras, in a newspaper article yesterday.

As 300,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Barcelona on Sunday to reject the declaration of independence by a majority in Catalonia’s parliament, another of Mr Puigdemont’s regional officials stated his clear intention to stay in his post.

“My intention on Monday is to come here, not as a councillor of the Catalan regional government, but as a minister of the new Catalan republic,” said Josep Rull of the Territory and Sustainability department in a public video message.

The defiance is the first major test for Madrid’s new security structure put in place under direct rule over the weekend. Catalan police officers could be called upon to block access to buildings to their former political masters after the entire regional government was dismissed on Saturday.

The new Madrid-appointed head of Catalonia’s Mossos d’Esquadra police force called on his officers to show “professionalism and loyalty” ahead of the potential standoffs. Mr Rajoy’s government is understood to wish to avoid further scenes of police violence such as those that were beamed around the world during Catalonia’s unlawful referendum on independence held on October 1.

Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis offered a barbed olive branch to Mr Puigdemont on Sunday, saying the deposed Catalan leader could “theoretically” be a candidate in elections called by Mr Rajoy on December 21 “if he is not in jail at that time”.

On Sunday some hundreds of thousands of Catalans who reject the region’s unlawful declaration of independence from Spain made their voices heard under a under a sea of red-and-yellow Spanish and Catalan flags.

Catalonia | Key questions

Demonstrators numbering 300,000 according to Barcelona’s police – although the organisers put the turnout at 1.1 million – poured into the centre of Barcelona to say that the republic proclaimed by Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia’s deposed leader, was an illusion with no basis in reality and no hope of prospering.

“This is Spain, and so it will stay. We’ve got the law on our side and the rest of the world,” said Alberto Villena, a pensioner who moved to Barcelona from southern Spain half a century ago to “help build Catalonia”.

Dressed in a Real Madrid shirt and draped in a large Spanish flag, Mr Villena was adamant that a majority of Catalans, many with mixed heritage like him, would defeat the region’s separatist politicians.

People hold a giant Catalan Senyera flag as protesters gather ahead of a pro-unity demonstration  Credit: PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images

“I’ve got children born here and grandchildren and we’re all Spaniards. These politicians have been deceiving people saying Catalonia is ‘independent’. We are more Spanish than ever here today.”

Antonia Padilla Vargas, a 45-year-old Barcelona native, struggled to contain her emotion and outrage at what she called Catalan leaders’ “disgusting” campaign to split Spain.

“They say if you don’t want independence, you are a bad Catalan. I am a Catalan, and just as Catalan as they are. But I don’t recognise the Catalan republic. I am in favour of unity and Catalonia as a part of Spain. We are stronger together, not separated,” she said wrapped in both the Spanish and Catalan flags.

A man wearing a Spanish flag walks along a street ahead of a rally in Barcelona Credit: AP Photo/Santi Palacios

Ms Padilla said she was “afraid” for her job as a saleswoman in a shopping centre, where she claimed business is down 40 per cent this month.

“It’s not fair for them to take us to the brink like this and threaten our livelihoods.” “They say to Europe that Spain is oppressing us, robbing us and beating us. But it’s not true.”

Organised by the anti-independence platform Catalan Civil Society, Sunday’s demonstration was supported by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party, the main opposition socialists, and Ciudadanos, a centrist anti-nationalist party whose stronghold is in Catalonia.

Profile | Carles Puigdemont

Spain’s anti-secession forces can take hope from the first major opinion poll published since elections in Catalonia were set for December 21 by Mr Rajoy, showing that pro-independence parties are on course to lose their slender majority in the region’s parliament with just 42.5 per cent of the popular vote.

Based on polling last week before independence was declared, the Sigma Dos poll for the El Mundo newspaper showed Ciudadanos as the leading force among the pro-unity parties on 20 per cent.

3:17PM

Puigdemont may run for office – if he’s not in prison 

Spain’s foreign minister has said that deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont would be eligible to run in the regional election called by the central government on December 21, provided he hasn’t been imprisoned by then, James Badcock writes.

Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis told The Associated Press that Mr Puigdemont’s pro-independence party could “theoretically” put him up as a candidate “if he is not in jail at that time”. Mr Puigdemont could face criminal charges for his role in the separatist movement that culminated in the Catalan parliament declaring an independent republic on Friday.

1:07PM

Pro-Madrid Catalans chant ‘prison for Puigdemont’

Catalans against the region’s unlawful declaration of independence from Spain thronged under a sea of red-and-yellow Spanish and Catalan flags in the centre of Barcelona on Sunday, with many singing “Viva España” and shouting “Prison for Puigdemont”, the deposed leader of the region, James Badcock reports.

Barcelona’s police calculated the number of demonstrators at 300,000, but Catalan Civil Society, the association organizing the event, said that 1.1 million people had filled the city’s Gracia avenue and surrounding streets.

In a Real Madrid shirt and draped in a large Spanish flag, Alberto Villena refuted Friday’s declaration of independence in Catalonia. “This is Spain, and so it will stay,” said the pensioner who moved to Barcelona half a century ago to “help build Catalonia”.

“I’ve got children born here and grandchildren and we’re all Spaniards. These politicians have been deceiving the foreigners saying Catalonia is independent. We are more Spanish than ever here today.”

Antonia Padilla Vargas, a 45-year-old Barcelona native, struggled to contain her emotion and outrage at what she called Catalan leaders’ “disgusting” campaign to split Spain.

“They say if you don’t want independence, you are a bad Catalan. I am Catalan, and just as Catalan as they are. But I don’t recognise the Catalan republic. I am in favour of unity and Catalonia as a part of Spain. We are stronger together, not separated,” she said wrapped in both the Spanish and Catalan flags.

With a Spanish flag discreetly tied around his neck, the 44-year-old Mr Vázquez, who was born in Galicia, said that seeking independence is a “legitimate policy”, but should not be pursued based on “deception and completely ignoring half of the population”.

12:48PM

Pro-independence parties weakened, poll shows

The first major opinion poll published since the snap election was announced by by Mr Rajoy shows that pro-independence parties are in danger of losing the slender majority they had in parliament, writes James Badcock in Barcelona.

Based on polling last week up to the day before independence was declared, the Sigma Dos poll published on Sunday by the newspaper El Mundo predicts a combined vote for Mr Puigdemont’s PDeCAT party, the Catalan Republican Left and the far-left CUP of just 42.5 per cent, which would see them fall short of a majority in the chamber.

12:47PM

Unity protest in Barcelona 

Tens of thousands of demonstrators, many of them carrying Spanish and official “senyera” Catalan flags, have gathered on a central Barcelona boulevard in a call for Spain’s unity.

The atmosphere was festive, as many cheered politicians and central government officials who joined the march. Some chanted “Puigdemont, to jail!” referring to the ousted regional leader who has been fired along with his Cabinet by the Spanish government after an independence declaration Friday.

Demonstrators are chanting “Now yes, we are going to vote!” and applauding every time a national police helicopter flies over the crowd. “This is our police!” they chanted.

12:47PM

Belgium could give Mr Puigdemont asylum, minister says

Granting Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont political asylum in Belgium would be “not unrealistic” if he asks for it, the Belgian migration minister said, underlining his country’s position as a contrarian voice in the Spanish standoff.

The Madrid government sacked the Catalan leader and dismissed the region’s parliament on Friday, hours after it declared itself an independent nation.

Spain’s constitutional court has also started a review of Catalonia’s independence vote for prosecutors to decide if it constituted rebellion.

While there was no indication Mr Puigdemont was hoping to come to Belgium, the country is one of few members of the European Union where EU citizens can ask for political asylum.

“It is not unrealistic if you look at the situation,” Belgium’s migration minister, Theo Francken, told Belgian broadcaster VTM.

“They are already talking about a prison sentence,” Mr Francken, a member of Flemish nationalist party N-VA, said. “The question is to what extent he would get a fair trial.”

It would be difficult for Spain to extradite Mr Puigdemont in such a case, he said.

12:47PM

Deposed Catalan leader may be able to stand in election

A spokesperson from Spanish central government has said that Carles Puigdemont may be able to run in the December election.

“I’m quite sure that if Puigdemont takes part in these elections, he can exercise this democratic opposition,” Íñigo Méndez de Vigo said, as quoted by Reuters.



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