FC Barcelona chief backs Catalan leaders in clash with Spain

Spain moves to suspend Catalan autonomy

"We can't allow ourselves to become a tool manipulated for political interests".

As it acquires control of Catalan ministries, Madrid will assume responsibility over security, public order, finance, tax and budgetary measures, and telecommunications, a government statement indicated.

Officials in Catalonia says regional leader Carles Puigdemont plans to join an afternoon protest before delivering a speech in response to the Spanish government's decision to take over the regional cabinet's functions.

Even moderate Catalans were aghast at the scope of the move, greeting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's announcement with banging pots and honking cars in the streets of Barcelona, the regional capital.

The slow-burning constitutional crisis over secession escalated this month when regional government officials held a disputed independence referendum on October 1.

New elections should be called for Catalonia within six months, Rajoy said, adding that he wants it to happen as soon as possible.

He is proposing that the powers of Catalan officials be taken over by central government ministers.

A spokeswoman for Spain's Constitutional Court says the court's website has been affected by a cyberattack of unknown origin.

The Nationalist movement was, predictably, in uproar at their imminent loss of regional power and a major demonstration is planned this evening in Barcelona "in defence of rights and freedoms".

In a YouTube video posted by an account linked to Anonymous, the group announced actions that would be rolled out on Saturday as part of an "Operation Free Catalonia".

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Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will meet with his cabinet at 10 a.m. local time to set out specific powers it plans to take away from the wealthy northeast region, the Daily Star reports.

Catalonia's leader accused Madrid on Saturday of waging the "worst attack" on his region since dictator Francisco Franco after the central government took drastic measures to stop it from breaking away.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is chairing the meeting at the Moncloa palace on Saturday.

Rajoy said Friday that the goal of revoking Catalan self-governance is "the return to legality and the recovery of institutional normalcy".

The decision to press for the abolition of the Catalan leadership, impose direct rule and push for elections within six months followed a special cabinet meeting on Saturday morning, nearly three weeks after the controversial independence referendum took place.

His comments were a veiled threat to push ahead with an independence declaration for the prosperous region in north-eastern Spain.

His proposals, under the never-used-before article 155 of the constitution, will nevertheless put an end to Catalonia's home rule prerogative, and mark an escalation of Spain's biggest political crisis since a failed coup d'etat in 1981.

Article 155 allows for the suspension of a region's autonomy if it does not fulfil its obligations to the state. He called on the regional parliament to "debate and decide on the attempt to wipe out our self-government and our democracy, and act accordingly".

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets Saturday in Barcelona, waving flags and banners in support of Catalonia's independence from Spain. The application of articles then must be approved by the Senate.


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