Spain: top general warns of war over Catalan autonomy
As if the controversy over the Basque country wasn't enough, now a Spanish general rattles the proverbial sabre over moves by Catalonia, Spain's most industrialized region, to seek greater autonomy from Madrid. A lovely irony: as the world waits for Balkan republics like Croatia to outgrow recent fascistic leanings in order to gain European Union entry, we have EU member Spain displaying its own atavistic fascist tendencies. From Reuters, Jan. 6:
A Spanish army commander provoked a storm on Friday by warning the army would have to defend Spanish unity if the region of Catalonia won the far-reaching self-government it is seeking.
Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Felix Sanz Roldan responded by asking Defence Minister Jose Bono to dismiss Lieutenant-General Jose Mena Aguado from his post as commander of land forces over the remarks, the Defence Ministry said. Bono ordered Mena Aguado -- who was due to retire in March -- to report to the Defence Ministry for a meeting on Saturday morning, it added in a statement. Mena Aguado's remarks were taken as a warning of military intervention if a proposed Catalan autonomy plan, currently before the national parliament, is approved unamended.
The role of the armed forces is highly sensitive in Spain, which suffered a bloody civil war from 1936 to 1939 after General Francisco Franco's military uprising and which experienced a failed military coup as recently as 1981.
"I have always insisted soldiers must not get involved in political reflections ... (but) it is our duty to warn of the serious consequences that the approval of the Catalan statute in the terms in which it is drafted could bring both for the armed forces as an institution and for the people who make up the armed forces," Mena Aguado said in a speech in Seville.
"Fortunately the constitution set a series of impassable limits for any autonomy statute and so I repeat my message of calm," he said in comments broadcast on state radio. "But if those limits were exceeded -- which at the moment fortunately appears unthinkable -- article 8 of the constitution would be applicable."
Article 8 of Spain's constitution, which Mena Aguado read out, states that "the armed forces ... have as their mission to guarantee the sovereignty and independence of Spain (and) to defend its territorial integrity and constitutional arrangements."
The proposed autonomy statute passed by Catalonia's regional assembly and sent to Madrid for its consideration defines the wealthy northeastern region as a nation within Spain. It calls for Catalonia to collect its own taxes and for the regional high court to replace Madrid's constitutional court as its highest judicial authority.
Tough negotiations are under way on the statute in the Spanish parliament and between Spain's ruling Socialist Party and the Catalan parties. Any version of the statute that is finally approved is likely to be greatly watered down.
The left-wing Izquierda Unida party called Mena Aguado's comments unacceptable and demanded his dismissal. Catalan parties also criticised the comments.
The Spanish military regularly intervened in politics in the 19th and early 20th centuries and Franco ruled from the 1930s until his death in 1975. In 1981, Colonel Antonio Tejero staged a coup attempt, bursting into the parliament chamber during a debate, but the attempt failed.
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