A Spanish army commander has caused furore by warning that the army would have to defend Spanish unity if the region of Catalonia wins the autonomy it wants.
The events have overshadowed this year’s Military Easter celebrations in Seville.
The army has called on Defence Minister Jose Bono to dismiss Lieutenant General Jose Mena Aguado from his post as commander of land forces over the remark.
In an interview on national radio, Mena Aguado – who is due to retire in March – said it was his duty to warn of the serious consequences that the approval of the Catalan statute as it stands could bring the armed forces.
The proposal defines the wealthy northeastern region as a nation within Spain. Catalonia would also gain the right to control its own taxation and to change laws passed by parliament.
The proposal passed by Catalonia’s regional assembly has divided the ruling Socialists and infuriated Conservatives, who say it will cause Spain to break up.
Tough negotiations are now underway in the Spanish parliament. Analysts believe any version of the statute that is finally approved will be greatly watered down.