Barcelona, Spain (CNN)Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will consider taking the dramatic measure of suspending Catalonia’s autonomous status, as the region’s leaders escalate threats to declare independence from the country.
Spanish politics has been plunged into disarray since Catalonia held an independence referendum a week ago. Catalan leaders say the people voted overwhelmingly to split, but Madrid has declared the vote illegal.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is facing one of the most difficult political crises of his leadership.
Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the capital, is Spain’s wealthiest region and has its own language and distinct culture. It has had a strong independence movement for decades and has already won sweeping powers to govern itself as an autonomous region within Spain.
“We are going to stop independence from happening. On that, I can tell you with absolute frankness, that it will not happen. It is evident that we will take whatever decision that we are permitted to by law, in view of how things are unfolding,” Rajoy told the El Pais newspaper in an interview.
Asked if this would include using Article 155 of the Constitution, the legal mechanism needed to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy, Rajoy said: “I am not absolutely ruling out anything that the law allows. I would like to do it at the right time … that it is more important at the moment.
“The ideal scenario would be that there were no need for drastic solutions, but for that there would need to be rectifications.”