Populist forces in Catalonia are “calling for rebellion”, Spain’s justice minister has warned, in a sign of mounting concern in Madrid after an attempt to organise a resistance campaign.
Rafael Catalá told RNE radio on Tuesday that the call from Catalonia’s far-left Popular Unity Candidacy party for “mass civil disobedience” was criminal.
On Friday, the Spanish senate is set to ratify measures to enable the central government to take direct control of Catalonia and end the threat of independence, which has been growing since the October 1 referendum.
Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan president, is set to be ousted along with his cabinet. All Catalan ministries, as well as the police and the public television station, are set to be taken over and run from Madrid.
Mr Puigdemont has called a meeting of the Catalan parliament on Thursday to agree on a response to Madrid plans to impose direct rule, a move that could pave the way for a formal declaration of independence.
But there are growing signs in Catalonia of attempts to organise a resistance movement. Raül Romeva, a senior minister in the regional government, said on Monday saying that Catalan authorities would not follow orders from Madrid.
Some teachers and firefighters said they would not accept Spain’s authority. “We will not recognise as valid interlocutors those people who are not representatives of popular legitimacy,” said Ustec, the teachers’ union.
On Tuesday, Mr Catalá said Catalan ministers could not, from a “legal and formal” point of view, refuse to leave their posts, as has been threatened. Protesters have been discussing plans to form a cordon around their offices to protect them.
Ministers would be relieved of their power by decree and any attempts to continue in their posts would be “puerile”, said Mr Catalá.
Madrid has said it will fire top Catalan officials who do not comply with orders. It has remained vague, however, on how it plans to implement direct rule if lower-ranking civil servants do not follow instructions.
Mr Catalá dismissed the possibility that the 17,000-strong Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police, would refuse to follow orders from Madrid even if some may be pro-independence.
They might have their own political views but, “when they put on the uniform” they uphold the law, he said.
During the referendum, the Mossos declined to follow orders from the Spanish courts to prevent voting. Many police unions have said they will have little room for manoeuvre to disobey measures from Madrid this time.