As reported previously, in a sternly worded address to the nation, Spain's King Felipe VI condemned organizers of Catalonia's independence referendum for having put themselves "outside the law" and said the situation in Spain was "extremely serious", calling for unity. In his address, King Felipe VI said Catalan leaders who organized the referendum showed their "disrespect to the powers of the state" adding that "they have broken the democratic principles of the rule of law.
"Today, the Catalan society is fractured," the king said, warning that the poll could put at risk the economy of the wealthy autonomous north-eastern region and the whole of Spain. He said that Catalonia’s authorities, “have placed themselves outside the law and democracy, they have tried to break the unity of Spain and national sovereignty”. Offering firm backing to the Spanish government of Mariano Rajoy, Felipe said it was the “responsibility of the legitimate powers of the state to ensure the constitutional order."
Felipe also said the Catalan government had “systematically violated the law, demonstrating a disloyalty that is inadmissible” and “undermined the harmony and coexistence in Catalan society”
But he stressed that Spain "will overcome difficult times".
The address came on the same day as Barcelona's roadways were blockaded amid a general strike as hundreds of thousands in Catalonia have been protesting over Spanish police violence during Sunday's vote, in which nearly 900 people were hurt.
However, despite the King's warning and hinting that a showdown, potentially violent, is coming, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont told the BBC the region will declare independence in a matter of days. In his first interview since the referendum, Carles Puigdemont said his government would "act at the end of this week or the beginning of next".
When asked what he would do if the Spanish government were to intervene and take control of Catalonia's government, Puigdemont said it would be "an error which changes everything".
As Bloomberg reported earlier, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been fighting to maintain control after 2.3 million Catalans voted in Sunday’s makeshift referendum and the regional police force ignored orders to prevent the ballot. Preparing for launching the "nuclear option", Bloomberg added that Rajoy is mulling if, and when, to use Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution to take direct control from the administration in Barcelona. This is the "error that would change everything" referred to by Puigdemont.
As a reminder, the Spanish government in Madrid has described the referendum as illegal. During the vote, 33 police officers were also injured, local medical officials said.
Meanwhile, as noted this morning, huge protest rallies have been taking place across Catalonia. In Barcelona alone, 700,000 people took to the streets, city police were quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
More than 50 roadblocks in the city caused big traffic jams. Barcelona's metro traffic was cut to a 25% service during rush hour and no trains at all at other times. Barcelona's port was at a standstill, trade union sources said. Top tourist attractions were also closed, including the city's famous Sagrada Familia church.
A roadblock on Gran Via in central Barcelona: The banner says "Occupation forces get out!"
Mercabarna - Barcelona's massive wholesale market - was left deserted as some 770 food businesses closed for the day. Many small businesses have shut for the day. Schools, universities and medical services were also closed or operating at a minimum level.
The strike was called in protest at "the grave violation of rights and freedoms" seen during Sunday's ballot. Some police officers were seen firing rubber bullets, storming into polling stations and pulling women by their hair.
Earlier on Tuesday, Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said: "We see how day after day the government of Catalonia is pushing the population to the abyss and inciting rebellion in the streets." He also warned that the central government would take "all measures necessary to stop acts of harassment".
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría condemned the "mafia" behavior of those protesters who had earlier gathered around hotels housing Spanish police officers and demanded that they leave.
It is unclear what Madrid's response will be if, or when, Catalonia follows through on its threat to declare independence. One option is for Madrid to challenge the declaration at the Constitutional Court, which will immediately rule against it. Next, if the Catalan government ignores the ruling, Madrid is likely to trigger article 155 of the Constitution to strip out Catalonia’s autonomy and to call for regional elections. This would be a risk-negatie scenario, and one which Citi said "could trigger a civil rebellion, with possible wide disruptions and violent confrontations. A move by the regional police force to ally with the pro-independence parties could significantly escalate the situation."