Spain's Army Commander Lieutenant General Jose Mena Aguado was relieved from his duties following threatening comments on Spain's unity, which Defence Minister Jose Bono described as an act of indiscipline but isolated.
Last Friday interviewed by a radio Lt. Gen Mena Aguado talked about a "military response" if any of Spain's autonomous regions pushes for sovereignty. His words were directed to Catalonia that is negotiating with Madrid a new autonomy statute and insists that the territory be recognized as a "nation".
"As in any human enterprise or organization, there is always the chance that someone might commit an act that is unacceptable in terms of discipline and must be corrected" remarked Defence minister Bono adding that the top ranking officer had been "disciplined for saying what he said" and recalled that "in a democracy, we have to get used to the fact that the last word is with the voters, not in the barracks".
Last Friday during a military celebration in Seville, Mena Aguado said Article 8 of the Spanish Constitution declares the Armed Forces "guarantors" of the nation's territorial integrity.
"The mission of the Armed Forces, comprising the army, navy and air force, is to guarantee Spain's sovereignty and independence and defend its integrity and constitutional order" emphasized the general who specifically warned about the serious consequences, "for both the armed forces as an institution and its members" if the Statute of Catalonia, under legislative discussion, is passed in its current draft.
Last November the new Statute of Catalonia, which grants the region the most liberal self-government in recent history, cleared its first hurdle in the Spanish parliament when it was accepted for consideration amid strong controversy as to its constitutionality.
One of the most controversial elements of the new statute is the description of the region as a "nation," when the Spanish Constitution recognizes only Spain as such. The Armed Forces apparently also object having to learn the "particular" local language, Catalan, to operate in the region.