Spain on Saturday began to assert control over Catalonia, sacking the region’s president, ministers, diplomats, police chiefs and transferring all authority to the central government in Madrid.
But it was an open question as to who was really in charge of the breakaway “Republic of Catalonia” in the hours after a divided Catalan Parliament declared independence.
Catalonia’s secessionist president, Carles Puigdemont, who was cheered by onlookers when he walked the streets of Barcelona on Saturday, issued a prerecorded call for citizens to mount “a democratic opposition” to the takeover.
Although some saw the brief statement as an act of resistance – a defiant roar – many of the pro-independence Catalans were disappointed and struggled to understand what he meant.
Barcelona, the capital of the newly declared republic, was placid on Saturday – even a bit dull – as if the population had taken a deep breath and was wondering what comes next.
News crews looking for action, for big demonstrations or clashes, were reduced to filming pigeons flapping around in the Plaça de Catalunya.
After being granted unprecedented powers by the Spanish Senate, the central government, in the early-morning hours Saturday published lists of Catalan officials, alongside their advisers, who were being fired.
The chief of the Catalan regional police, Josep Lluís Trapero, who is being investigated by Spanish prosecutors for defying legal orders, was among the officially dismissed.
In all, more than 140 Catalans were told they no longer hold positions of power.
The Catalan Parliament was dissolved by order of Spain, and new elections were scheduled for Dec. 21 in the well-to-do region of northeast Spain, riven by emotional divisions between pro-independence sentiment and the desire of those who want to remain in Spain.
Catalonia’s separatist politicians mostly stayed out of sight Saturday, declining requests for media interviews and avoiding public appearances.
Phone calls and emails to Catalan officials went unanswered or were off the record.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · William Booth