Spain’s bid to sack Catalonia’s government and curb its parliament’s powers has been likened to the dictatorship of Francisco Franco by the separatist region’s president.
Charles Puigdemont spoke out on Saturday night amid the standoff between Madrid and Barcelona over the recent independence referendum.
Earlier, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced he would take the unprecedented action against the Catalan administration after an emergency cabinet meeting in Madrid on Saturday.
But Puigdemont used a public address to hit back, confirming he would call the Catalan parliament to debate the plans.
He said they represent the “worst attacks” on the region since the reign of Franco.
It comes nearly three weeks after the referendum, which Spanish courts had deemed illegal, saw police clash with voters, confiscate polling boxes and force their way into polling stations.
Of the 43% who voted, 90% backed independence and the region announced it was moving ahead with declaring its separation from Spain.
Rajoy stopped short of suspending Catalonia’s parliament but his move means there must be fresh elections within six months.
He invoked Article 155 of Spain’s constitution, which allows it to suspend the powers of autonomous regions in times of crisis.
“We are not ending Catalan autonomy, but we are relieving of their duties those who have acted outside the law,” Rajoy said.
It comes after Madrid ordered Carles Puigdemont’s government to clarify whether it had declared independence.
The Catalan leader did not answer but said he would declare independence if the Spanish Government invoked Article 155.
On Saturday, huge demonstrations in Barcelona followed Rajoy’s statement.
People waved Catalan flags and placards in support of Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixar, two prominent separatists detained last week without bail while they were investigated for sedition.
Catalan MEP Ramon Tremosa reacted to Rajoy, saying the prime minister had “suspended democracy” in the region.
It is the first time the Article 155 has been used. Spain’s senate must now vote on whether to ratify Rajoy’s decision.